The Seven Ages of Man

William Shakespeare was a great playwright and poet who subtly reflected the complexities and realities of life. Jacques delivers a speech about the seven stages of a man’s life in his famous play ‘As You Like It’. Jacques’ speech became a masterpiece, with excerpts frequently cited in literature. As a melancholy character, Jacques paints a bleak picture of life.

Summary of The Seven Ages of Man

In The Seven Ages of Man, Shakespeare makes the case through Jacques that the world is a stage on which humans perform their roles. Seven Acts correspond to the seven stages of a man’s life. In a single lifetime, a person assumes a variety of roles. At first, he is a baby crying in the nurse’s arms. Infanthood is followed by the school-going stage, during which he is bright-eyed and reluctantly trudging to school. He develops into a lover in the third stage, writing poems in praise of his beloved and sighing like a furnace. Then he assumes the role of a reckless soldier willing to give his life for honour. He then plays a Judge, who is well-fed, prosperous, fat, and fierce-eyed. He is constantly in the mood to impress others and is brimming with wise maxims.

The following stage depicts man as frail and frail-looking, wearing spectacles and slippers. His clothes are baggy and his legs are frail, and his voice is shrill and childlike. Finally, he loses his memory, teeth, eyes, and taste, in fact, everything. It’s almost as if he’s experiencing a second childhood, as he must rely on others for everything. Thus concludes the drama of his illustrious life.

Questions and Answers

1. What is the theme of the poem ‘The Seven Ages’?
Ans. According to Shakespeare human life is transitory. There is nothing permanent in it. This poem is based on a speech given by a character Jacques who is a cynic in the well-known play ‘As You Like It. For Jacques, there is nothing noble or praiseworthy in a man’s life. He makes fun of all the seven ages of man and calls birth as ‘entry’ and death as ‘exit’.

2. Why does the poet say that the schoolboy creeps like a snail to school?
Ans. The schoolboy is not very willing to go to school. He is disinterested and just walks slowly like a snail carrying his school bag. He is always whining and complaining.

3. Describe the fourth and fifth stages of man.
OR
What characteristics does the poet associate with the fourth and fifth stages of man?
Ans. The fourth stage is of a soldier. He is fierce like a leopard full of vigour and can easily be provoked. He is jealous and always defensive to save his honour. In the fifth stage, he is fat and huge. There is somberness in his eyes and his beard gives him a formal look. He is always full of advice for others and performs the role of justice.

SHORT ANSWER QUESTIONS


1. What is the theme of the poem ‘The Seven Ages’?
Ans. According to Shakespeare human life is transitory. There is nothing permanent in it. This poem is based on a speech given by a character Jacques who is a cynic in the well-known play ‘As You Like It. For Jacques, there is nothing noble or praiseworthy in a man’s life. He makes fun of all the seven ages of man and calls birth as ‘entry’ and death as ‘exit’.


2. Why does the poet say that the schoolboy creeps like a snail to school?
Ans. The schoolboy is not very willing to go to school. He is disinterested and just walks slowly like a snail carrying his school bag. He is always whining and complaining.


3. Describe the fourth and fifth stages of man.
OR
What characteristics does the poet associate with the fourth and fifth stages of man?
Ans. The fourth stage is of a soldier. He is fierce like a leopard full of vigour and can easily be provoked. He is jealous and always defensive to save his honour. In the fifth stage, he is fat and huge. There is somberness in his eyes and his beard gives him a formal look. He is always full of advice for others and performs the role of justice.

4. 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.
(a) Why does the poet call the world a ‘stage’?
(b) What does the poet mean by ‘exits’ and ‘entrances’?
(c) How can one-man play many parts?
Ans. (a) The stage is a platform in a theatre where actors perform their parts. Similarly, life is also a performance in which men and women play different parts. These roles are preordained and are in God’s power.
(b) The exits are deaths and entrances are births
(c) The various parts are the various stages in his life: Childhood, adolescence, youth, middle age and finally death.
5. 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 a snail.
(a) How is the life of a person like an infant?

(b) How does a schoolboy appear?
(c) The schoolboy is depicted as ‘shining’ and ‘whining’ Why?
Ans. The first stage of man is of childhood –  an infant who cries and vomits in his nurse’s arms. He is helpless and depends on others for his every need. The next stage is of a schoolboy who carries his school bag, goes to school unwillingly and slowly like a snail. At this time his face is always scrubbed and shining. But he is not a very willing student, he keeps whining and complaining.

6. Explain ‘All the world’s a stage’ with reference to the poem.
Ans. In this poem, life is compared to a play. First, as a man plays different roles in a play so also does he in a real life. As on a stage, there is a particular entry and a particular exit of actors; in the same way in life man comes when he is born and departs when he dies. Just as a part is assigned to an actor, in the same God decides man’s role in life, what he has to do at various stages. Noting is in man’s hand.

7. What is the theme of the poem ‘The Seven Ages’.
Or
What do you think has the poet referred to as ‘an eventful history’ in the poem, The Seven Ages and why?
Ans. Shakespeare said that human life is transitory. There is nothing permanent in it. This poem is based on a speech given by a character Jacques, who is a cynic, in the well-known play ‘As You Like It. For Jacques, there is nothing noble or praiseworthy in a man’s life. He makes fun of all the seven ages of man and calls birth as ‘entry’ and death as ‘exit’.

8. Write two characteristics of infant state mentioned in the poem ‘The Seven Ages’. Or
How does Shakespeare describe the man in the first stage of life?
Ans. The two characteristics of an infant stage are crying and vomiting out his milk. Whenever he needs anything he cries, whether he is hungry, sick, or wet. The only language he knows is of crying which attracts the attention of those who care for him. The only reaction he gives regarding his behaviour is by vomiting out his milk. These two traits characterise an infant.

9. Why has been the last stage of a man’s life referred to as second childishness’?
Ans. An infant has to depend on others for everything. Similarly, an old man is weak and ignorant of everything around him. He has no teeth, no sense of taste and is absolutely helpless.

10. What are the problems faced by a person in ‘Soldier’ stage? Or
How does a man as a soldier behave? (The Seven Ages)
Ans. The fourth stage of a man is of a soldier. He is heroic, seeking reputation, willing to face total annihilation. He is fierce like a leopard, full of vigour and is easily provoked. He is jealous and defensive. He risks his life to become immortal.

LONG ANSWER QUESTIONS

Describe the seven stages in a man’s life. What are the attributes of each stage according to Shakespeare?
Or
According to Shakespeare, there are seven stages in a man’s life and these stages are universal. Justify this statement in the light of the poem ‘The Seven Ages’.

Ans. The seven stages in a man’s life are 1. Infancy, 2. School Boy, 3. Lover, 4. Soldier, 5. Judge, 6. Old-Age, 7. Very old age. As an infant, he only pukes and cries. As a schoolboy he moves about sulking, unwillingly carrying his school bag to the school. As a lover, he keeps sighing like a furnace. As a soldier he is heroic, seeking reputation, willing to face total annihilation, he is rash and foolish.

He risks his life to become immortal. As a judge he is wise, he gains weight, sports a beard and wears well-cut clothes and is always offering good advice to others. Sixth stage is of old age. He grows weak and thin. His teeth become loose and his legs become thin. In the seventh stage he is too old, without teeth, eyesight and taste. This is his second childhood and also the time to make his exit from the world.

2. What message does Shakespeare’s ‘The Seven Ages’ convey?
Ans. Shakespeare wishes to point out that human life is transitory, we are in this world for a short span of time. We are born with a predetermined destiny and we must accept our fate with grace and humility. Every human being has to pass through the necessary stages of childhood, adolescence, youth, middle age and finally death. Death and birth are like the ‘entrances’ and ‘exits’ of actors and are in God’s hands. So we should not complain or grumble but perform our roles with dignity.

Since life is short we should not resort to arrogance or vanity. We are mere puppets in the hands of the puppet- master i.e. God, so gratitude and compliance is expected
from us.


3. ‘‘Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad made to his mistress’ eyebrow.’’ Why does a lover behave thus?
Ans. In his youth, he becomes a lover. He Falls in love and plays the role of a romantic lover. He writes love songs and when sad and separated from his beloved, he draws deep and hot breaths like the bellows of a blacksmith. He writes sad tragic ballads, sentimental verses tragic and poetic descriptions of his love life. He is always unhappy and sad.

4. With eyes severe and beard of formal cut, Full of wise saws and modern instances.” Which stage is this? State the reason for this kind of behaviour.
Answer. His eyes have a severe expression and his beard displays a formal cut. He is always giving wise advice to others, always connecting them with present-day instances. This is the stage when the man plays the role of a Magistrate. He accepts the bribe of chicken and meat. He is living a life of ease and has put on a good weight. He has been an irresponsible youth a sentimental fool/lover, a daring soldier, so the time is ripe for him to play this role of a wise adviser.

5. Why is the world compared to a stage by Shakespeare?
Ans. The stage is a platform in a theatre, where actors perform their roles and all the action is enacted. The roles of the actors are written by the playwright and performed according to the directions of the director. Similarly, life is a performance and this world is akin to a stage, where men are born to perform certain roles, predetermined by God. Human beings cannot choose their roles, they are placed in situations and circumstances according to divine choice. Their births and deaths are also in God’s power. Shakespeare was one of the greatest dramatists of his time and each of the plays he wrote appeared to be small segments from life itself. So the comparison of the world to a stage, life to a drama is an age-old concept.

6. Describe the fourth and fifth stages of man’s life.
Ans. In the fourth stage of his life, man performs the role of a soldier. He is fierce like a leopard, full of vigour and can be easily provoked. He is prone to jealousy and a desire to safeguard his reputation. In the fifth stage of his life, he grows fat and huge, his eyes acquire a serious expression and his beard is very formal. He is always advising others and performs the role of a justice, who is desirous of impressing others.


0 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.