Summary of Shakespeare’s The Seven Ages of Man

The Seven Ages of Man is a monologue from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. The speech compares the world to a stage and life to a play and catalogues the seven stages of a man’s life.

Summary

The poet compares the world to a stage in a theater and men and women to players. Each player has his/her exit and entrance. Similarly, men and women enter the world on birth and exit from it on death. They come to this stage, play their different roles and bid good-bye. These parts, acts or stages are normally seven.

The birth of a child is the first act of the drama of human life. The human baby cries and vomits in the nurse’s arms. Soon he starts going to school. He has a shining face and carries a bag of books. He goes to school unwillingly, creeping like a snail. This is the second act of his life. The third role that he plays is of a lover. The young lover sighs like a furnace and sings some mournful songs praising the beauty of his beloved.

The fourth stage is that of a soldier. He sports a beard like that of a leopard. He is quick-tempered in matters of honor. He seeks reputation even at the risk of his life. He is not afraid of death and danger while fighting for reputation. However, his reputation is short-lived. It is hollow like a bubble.

Then comes the middle age. The fifth stage is that of a judge. He is fat with a round and fleshy stomach as a result of eating chickens. He has a beard of formal cut. His eyes are now harsh-looking. He becomes strict in his behavior. He uses many sayings and modern instances to support his arguments of wisdom.

The sixth age takes a person to old age. Man becomes weak in health and thin in body. He wears slippers, spectacles and clothes of his youth. These clothes are now too loose for his shrunk and thin legs. His voice becomes unmanly. He pipes and whistles. He lisps like a child as he is toothless. He looks a comic figure.

The last role is that of an extremely old person. This ‘act’ shows him as helpless as a baby. He is toothless, hard of hearing, weak in eyesight and forgetful. In fact he loses control over all his senses. He departs from this world after playing these roles of life.

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