Seven Ages of Man: Summary

 In the poem, Seven Ages of Man Shakespeare compares the entire world to a theatrical stage, where all the human beings perform their allotted role given by the God. Every individual has to go through seven acts that are seven stages of man’s life. Shakespeare has divided human life into seven stages, with each stage having its own qualities and characteristics. Shakespeare considers the world a stage and men and women actors on the stage of life. They play seven roles on the stage depending upon their age.

The first stage, in this phase of his life man, appears as a child in the world. As a child, he is a helpless creature. He cries in the arms of his nurse for one reason or the other. He cries and vomits.

The next phase of his life man appears as a child in the world. He goes to school with a bag hanging from his shoulder. He goes to the school creeping like a snail. He marches to the school unwillingly.

In the third stage of his life, a man plays the part of a lover. He grows into a young man full of desires, ambitions, and dreams. He becomes a romantic young man. He falls in love and sights like a furnace. He begins to write sad poems to his beloved he cannot control his sad feelings.

In the fourth stage of his life man becomes a foul-mouthed soldier who has learned queer words at this stage, he tries to give himself a formidable look with a beard like a part. He is emotional and jealous. He quarrels with others for his honor and grace. He hankers after temporary and bubble fame.

In the fifth stage of his life, he becomes a judge. He becomes mature and experienced in his thoughts. The heat of youth has completely cooled down and he becomes very realistic. He wishes to grab wealth by foul or fair means. He begins to accept bribe and thus adds much to his material comforts. He becomes ease-loving and therefore becomes fat. His belly becomes round. He eats healthy fowls and chicken presented to him as a bribe. His eyes become severe and he grows the beard of formal cut.

Then, in the sixth stage of his life, man grows old. He looks quite ridiculous in his movements. He wears glasses because his eyesight is weak. His shoes become wide for his feet. His voice suffers a change. It becomes a shrill and quivering whistle

However, in the final stage, the man turns into a child once again. He seems to forget everything. He becomes ‘toothless’. His eyesight is weakened and he is deprived of taste. He is ready to leave this world.

Shakespeare has the seven stages of man’s life with a touch of satire and cynicism. In each stage, man imagines himself great and important, but there is something ridiculous in his behavior all through his life. Shakespeare has described each of the man’s life stage with great economy of words. He uses living and concrete images to describe the different stages of life. The use of the word ‘mewling’ of the infant’s cry and the school boy’s reluctance for going to school described in phases ‘creeping like a snail’ are examples of living images.

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