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All World's a Stage Summary & Analysis [Exercise of NEB English-11]

All World's a Stage - Summary Analysis and Exercise of NEB English Grade -11, The poem ‘All the World’s a Stage’ has been written by William Shakespea
All World's a Stage Summary & Analysis [Exercise of NEB English-11]
All World's a Stage Summary & Analysis [Exercise of NEB English-11]

Summary of  All World's a Stage

The poem ‘All the World’s a Stage’ has been written by William Shakespeare. "All the world's a stage" is the phrase that begins a monologue from his pastoral comedy ‘As You Like It’. The lines of the poem are spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII Line 139.

Main Summary

In this poem, he seems to have the impression that human life is not real. What we see and hear isn't a reality. Human life is a play of make-believe. Here Shakespeare traces human life through the famous seven ages – the infant in arms, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the retired man, and the worn-out senior, sinking back into dissolution. The whole world's a stage. We're only actors. We enter the stage and we go off it again. One man in his lifetime plays a lot of roles.

"All the world's a stage" is the phrase that begins a monologue from William Shakespeare's pastoral comedy ‘As You Like It’ spoken by the melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VII Line 139.

At first, he plays the part of the infant, crying and throwing milk in the arms of the nurse. Then he plays the part of a schoolboy who is not willing to go to school. With his shining face of the morning, he trudges at the pace of the snail. Then there comes the role of the lover. He sighs like a furnace, and writes pitiful verses, addressing his beloved. He plays the role of a soldier in the fourth stage. It's stocked with all the violent oaths. He's wearing a wonderful beard. In a quarrel, he is too sensitive and fast and hasty. He comes into a temper soon. He is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of unsubstantial glory. Then he will play the role of judge. He's a bulging belly, with severe eyes. He's a very wise man. His appearance is formal and he seems to be a mature person.

Then Shakespeare describes old age as the sixth stage of life. In this, he wears pantaloons and slippers on his feet. He is now thin, lean, and weak, and his eyesight too has become weak. His manly voice has turned into the shrill voice of a child.  It's pretty funny. The old man is in slippers, wearing glasses. His mannish voice once more turns into a child's shrill tone. The last role is the second child. It's so full of forgetfulness. It's without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything. In this way, he completes his role in the play. His life is over by playing the role on the world stage. He leaves the stage or he dies.

About the Author

William Shakespeare (1564-1616) was an English poet, dramatist and actor of the Renaissance era. He is widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's greatest dramatist. His most famous works include Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth.

This poem is taken from William Shakespeare's play As You Like It. With these words “all the world’s a stage” begins the monologue by the character Melancholy Jaques in Act II Scene VI of the play.

In this poem, Shakespeare has compared life with a stage. The seven stages of a person’s life are infant, school-going boy, lover/husband, soldier/fighter, justice/ ability to understand the right and wrong, Pantalone (greediness and high in status) and old-age., which can come into your mind when you go through this poem with the theme that a person is an ultimate loser in the game of life.

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Exercise of All World's a Stage

Understanding the Text 

a. Why does the poet compare the world with a stage? 

➜ The poet compares the world to a stage because he considers all men and women like the actors of a drama. These actors perform their different roles here in this stage and leave this worldly stage one day. 

b. What is the first stage in a human's life? In what sense can it be a troubling stage? 

➜ The first stage in a human's life is the stage of infanthood. It can be a troubling stage in the sense that this stage is a fully dependent stage where the infant is fully under the care of the mother. The infant can cry and even vomit anytime in the mother's arms.

c. Describe the second stage of life-based on the poem. 

➜ The second stage of life is the stage of boyhood. In this stage, the boy is a school going, student. He slings his bag over his shoulder with his shining face and creeps to school unwillingly like a snail. 

d. Why is the last stage called second childhood? 

➜ The last stage is called second childhood because here in this stage the man loses his senses of sight, hearing, smell and taste. He acts like a child and finally exits from the roles of his life.

e. In what sense are we the players on the world stage? 

➜ We are the players on the world stage in the sense that we perform different roles here on this world stage. We play seven different roles in our entire lifetime and finally depart from this world stage. 

Reference to the Context 

a. Explain the following lines: All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players 

➜ Here in these lines, the poet has compared the whole world with a stage where men and women are only players (actors). After birth, they perform their many roles here in this worldly stage and finally, leave this stage moving towards their final destination (death). 

b. Explain the following lines briefly with reference to the context.

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts, 

➜ These beautiful lines have been taken from William Shakespeare's realistic poem "All the World's a Stage". These lines are the parts of Jacues's monologue. Here, the poet has said that the people in the world have their entrances (birth) and exits (death). People arrive here in this worldly stage through birth and leave this stage through death. A man here in this worldly stage has to perform many roles in his lifetime and leave the stage after his death. 

c. Read the given lines and answer the questions that follow. 

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel 

And shining morning face, creeping like snail 

Unwillingly to school. 

i. Which stage of life is being referred to here by the poet? 

➜ The childhood stage of life is being referred to here by the poet. Best Pos Small Retail Business  

ii. Which figure of speech has been employed in the second line? 

➜ In the second line, simile, a figure of speech has been employed where the boy has been compared with snail using like. I

ii. Who is compared to the snail? 

➜ The school-going boy is compared to the snail. 

iv. Does the boy go to the school willingly? 

➜No, the boy doesn't go to the school willingly. His unwillingness can easily be the motion of a snail towards his school. 

d. Simile and metaphor are the two major poetic devices used in this poem. Explain citing examples of each. 

➜ Here in this poem, we find major poetic devices as simile and metaphor. The poet has used these poetic devices a lot. 

The examples of simile and metaphor of this poem are as follows: 

a) "All the world's a stage" - Metaphor 

b) "And all the men and women merely players" - Metaphor 

c) "And shining morning face, creeping like a snail" - Simile 

d) "Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, " - Simile 

e) "Seeking the bubble reputation" - Metaphor 

f) "His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide" - Metaphor. 

g) "and his big manly voice, Turning again toward childish treble" - Metaphor. 

e. Which style does the poet use to express his emotions about how he thinks that the world is a stage and all the people living in it are mere players? 

➜ The poet uses a narrative style to express his innermost emotions about how he thinks that the world is a stage and all the people living in it are mere players or characters. These characters go through seven different phases in their lives. He has explained the real aspects of human life for all readers to understand the reality of life. 

f. What is the theme of this poem? 

➜ The theme of this poem is that person is the ultimate loser in the game of life. A person makes an entry into this worldly stage and performs different roles in his lifetime. Finally, he/she leaves this worldly stage struggling in different circumstances. He/She comes empty-handed here and leaves this stage empty-handed. He/She brings nothing and takes nothing. 

Reference Beyond the Text 

a. Describe the various stages of human life picturised in the poem "All the world's a stage." 

➜ According to Shakespeare, the world is a stage and everyone is a player. He says that every man has seven stages during his lifetime. He performs different seven roles in his lifetime and finally exits from this worldly stage. The first stage of a man is childhood. He plays in the arms of his mother. He often vomits and cries in this stage. In his second stage, the man is an unwilling school going, student. He becomes a lover in his third stage. He is very busy composing ballads for his beloved and yearns for her attention. In the fourth stage, he is aggressive and ambitious. 

He seeks reputation in all that he does. He is ready to guard his country and becomes a soldier. In his fifth stage, he becomes a fair judge with maturity and wisdom. In the sixth stage, he is seen with loose pantaloons and spectacles. His manly voice changes into a childish treble. The last stage of all is his second childhood. Slowly, he loses his faculties of sight, hearing, smell and taste and exits from the roles of his life. Thus, Shakespeare has presented the pictures of the seven stages of a man's life in the poem 'All the World's a Stage'.  

b. Is Shakespeare's comparison of human's life with a drama stage apt? How? 

➜ Yes, Shakespeare's comparison of a human's life with a drama stage is apt. He compares the whole world with a stage where men and women are only actors. In a drama, every player enters the stage, acts his/her part and then exits. In the same way, we enter this world by birth. We lead our life in different characters. We exit from this world at the time of our death. Shakespeare says that every man has seven stages during his lifetime. His opinion related to life is quite right. 

Players or people come into this worldly stage and perform their seven different roles and finally part away from this stage. Our life is divided into seven different stages and in these stages, we keep on performing different roles seeking various things in our life as actors. Here in this worldly stage, we play the role of an infant, a boy, a lover, a soldier, a judge, an old man and an extremely old man.

Detail Analysis & Further Reading Of the Poem

Summary

‘All the world’s a stage’ is a monologue of “the melancholy Jaques” from Act II Scene VII of the play As You Like It by William Shakespeare. The speaker, Jacques, begins “All the world’s a stage” by asserting that life is like a stage on which “men and women merely” play roles. They play different parts throughout their lives, as the speaker is now. In the bulk of this monologue, the speaker spends time going through the seven ages of man. One starts in infancy, moves through childhood, and into the best part of their life when they’re a lover, soldier, and judge. Later, they lose control of their senses and eventually can’t take care of themselves.

Meaning

Shakespeare uses the monologue in As You Like It to compare life to a stage on its most basic level. His speaker, Jacques, is suggesting that life is a stage, and men and women are players who take on different roles throughout their lives. The concept comes, in part, from medieval philosophy. The “seven ages” dates from the 12th century. There was a tapestry of King Henry V depicting the seven stages of man. For theological reasons, medieval philosophers constructed groups of seven as in the seven deadly sins. Therefore, it is believed that the “seven ages” derive from medieval philosophy.

Structure and Form

‘All the world’s a stage’ is an excerpt from William Shakespeare’s well-loved play, As You Like It. Specifically, it is a monologue that is spoken by the melancholy Jaques. The monologue is twenty-eight lines long and is in part written in blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. This means that the lines do not rhyme, but they do (at some points) contain five sets of two beats, the first of which is unstressed and the second of which is stressed.

It is also important to consider how a performer might’ve used the stage to their advantage when performing these lines and the impact that formal elements like enjambment and alliteration would’ve had on the audience’s understanding of the speech.

Literary Devices

Shakespeare makes use of several literary devices in this speech. Some are:

  1. Simile: ‘creeping like a snail”; “soldier… bearded like the pard”; etc.

  2. Metaphor: The entire speech itself is more like symbolism; men and women are portrayed as players whereas life is portrayed as the stage. Shakespeare uses the “stage” as an extended metaphor.

  3. Repetition: Another figure of speech used in this monologue; words like sans, age, etc. are repeated for the sake of emphasis.

  4. Anaphora: It is used in the eighth and ninth lines, beginning with the word “And”.

  5. Synecdoche: “Made to his mistress’ eyebrow”; “And then the justice”; etc.

  6. Alliteration: “his shrunk shank”; “quick in quarrel”; etc.

  7. Onomatopoeia: “pipes / And whistles in his sound”

  8. Asyndeton: “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

The Seven Ages of Man

The seven stages of life, as described by Jacques in ‘All the world’s a stage’ are:

The Seven Ages of Man, a German representation of 1482

  1. Infancy (lines 5-6): The first stage of man’s life is infantry. In the monologue, readers can find an image of a baby crying softly and throwing up in the caregiver’s lap.

  2. Boyhood (lines 7-9): The image of a school-going boy unwilling to go to school describes this stage.

  3. Adolescence/Teenage (lines 9-11): In this stage, Shakespeare presents an image of a dejected lover who composes sad songs for his beloved.

  4. Youth (lines 11-15): He projects the stage of youth by depicting the life of a soldier. As a soldier, a person in his youths is unafraid of dire challenges.

  5. Middle Age (lines 15-19): The fifth stage deals with middle age and it is described by the picture of a judge or one who practices law. In this stage of life, one starts to mature and becomes wiser than before.

  6. Old Age (lines 19-25): Just before the final stage, comes old age, turning the manly voice of youth into childish trebles and whistling. It makes the body weak and the mind, dependent upon others.

  7. Death (lines 25-28): In the finale of this seven-act-play of life, the strange and eventful history ends abruptly. It leaves a man with nothing.

Detailed Analysis

Lines 1-6

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.

In the first lines of ‘All the world’s a stage,’ the speaker, Jacques, begins with the famed lines that later came to denote this entire speech. He declares that “All the world’s a stage” and that the people living in it are “merely players.”

This sets up what is one of the most skilled conceits in all of English literature. Every person, no matter who they are, where they were born, or what they want to do with their lives, wakes up every day with a role. They enter, they exit, just like performers.

It’s important to note at this point that these lines would be read on stage in front of an audience. The extended metaphor would not be lost on anyone listening or watching. The actor is declaring to the audience that “you” are just as much of an actor as he is.

Before the listener starts to get concerned about the role they have to play, Jacques adds that a “man,” (or woman) plays many different parts in their lives, as an actor does. Whoever the actor may be on stage is not only “Jacques” he’s also many other characters throughout his career. It’s in the fifth line of the monologue that Shakespeare brings in a slightly more complex concept, that of the “seven ages” of humankind. The first of these is the “infant”.

Lines 7-18

And 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 lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

As the speech progresses, Jacque continues to describe how someone ages, the roles they play, and what everyone is like, generally, at different times in their lives. One will at some point be a “whining school-boy” and a “lover / Sighing like furnace.” There will be sorrows, ballads, and losses. One will become “a soldier” and take oaths of allegiance while seeking out a fight. This is one of the more difficult stages in one’s life and if drafted, not one that someone could ignore.

The man’s youth has given way to a full beard like a “pard,” or leopard. In these lines, there is also an interesting metaphor comparing a human or animal blowing a bubble with its mouth to staring down a cannon that might fire at any moment. Finally, this metaphorical person becomes “the justice,” or magistrate, someone with a steadier knowledge of what’s right and wrong. They have “Wise saws,” or wise sayings and “modern instances,” or arguments for legal cases.

Lines 19-28

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.

In the sixth stage of man’s life, he moves into the “pantaloon” or comfortable clothes worn by old men. His youthful clothes are too loose because he’s lost weight with age. He’s also lost his deep voice. It reverted back to something that’s closer to what he had in one of the earlier stages of his life.

The last stage of a man’s life is his “second childishness and mere oblivion.” This is when he loses control of everything that made him an adult. Now, he’s helpless and dependent on others, as he was when he was a child. He is “sans,” or without, “taste,” “eyes,” and “teeth.” The final image is the man without “everything.” His life, all its intricate memories, and details are lost.

Themes

In ‘All the world’s a stage’ Shakespeare discusses the futility of humanity’s place in the world. He explores themes of time, aging, memory, and the purpose of life. Through the monologue’s central conceit, that everyone is simply a player in a larger game that they have no control over, he brings the themes together. Shakespeare takes the reader through the stages of life, starting with infancy and childhood and ending up with an old man who’s been a lover, a soldier, and a judge. The “man” dies after reverting back to a state that’s close to childhood and infancy. You can also explore the themes in other William Shakespeare poems.

Tone and Mood

In ‘All the world’s a stage’ Shakespeare creates a somber and depressing mood through the simple breakdown of life, success, love, and death. The beauties of life are compiled into a short monologue that’s over almost as soon as it began. With this, the reader is left to consider their own life and what “stage” they’re in now. The speaker knows that this is the way the world is, everyone listening to his words is all going to end up back where they started as children and there’s no way to change that fact.

Historical Context

In Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, Rosalind and Celia encounter some memorable characters in the Forest of Arden. Jaques, the melancholy traveler, is the most notable of them all. He speaks many famous speeches such as “too much of a good thing”, “A fool! A fool! I met a fool in the forest”, and “All the world’s a stage”.

Jaques’ monologue is an echo of the motto of the new Globe Theatre which was opened in the summer of 1599. The motto was “Totus mundus agit histrionem”, meaning “all the Globe’s a stage”. The play was written in the same year.

In his book “William Shakspere’s Small Latine and Lesse Greeke”, T. W. Baldwin states that Shakespeare’s version of the monologue is based upon Palingenius’ “Zodiacus Vitae”. Shakespeare would have studied this school text at the Stafford Grammar School. The text also presents stages of a man’s lifespan. He would have taken inspiration from Ovid and Juvenal.

FAQs

Who said, “All the world’s a stage”?

In Act 2, Scene 7, Line 139 of William Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It, the melancholy Jaques said the monologue ‘All the world’s a stage’.

What is the central theme of ‘All the world’s a stage’?

The central theme of this monologue is life and its seven stages. Shakespeare describes the phases that are observed in a man’s lifespan.

Why does Shakespeare call the world a “stage”?

According to Shakespeare, the “world” is like a “stage”. The stage remains permanent. Only the actors and actresses change with time. They have their parts to play. When the curtain slides down, they are no more. The stage becomes empty. It makes way for a new play, maybe the next day or the day after tomorrow. We, human beings, are like artists. We play our roles as someone’s child, lover, life partner, or grandparents during our lifespan. When our time comes, the sidewalk is our only destination leading us to the leaden death.

What message does ‘All the world’s a stage’ convey?

Through this monologue, Shakespeare gives the message of life’s impermanence. How quickly the play of our life ends and the strange eventful lays are concluded get featured in this speech.

Why is the last stage called “second childishness”?

The term, “second childishness” refers to the cognitive decline of an old person. It is characterized by childlike judgment and behaviour. Shakespeare called the last stage of man’s life the “second childishness” for this reason.

What does “Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything” mean?

The word “sans” is a preposition that is generally used in literary works. This word adds a flavor of humor to the line where it is used. Literally, it means “without” or “in the absence of something”. In this line, the use of palilogy (repetition of “sans”) puts emphasis on the nothingness in the last stage of a human’s life that is “mere oblivion”.

What does “Sighing like furnace” mean?

The lover’s sigh is compared to the exhausts of a furnace. A man in his youths is driven by the carnal desires that fuel his heart. It kindles the burning desire for love there. When the fire is blown out by the current of a lady’s rejection, the heart sighs like a furnace. The heat of passion is there but the fire of heartfelt emotions is extinguished.

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