Seven Ages of Man: Critical Analysis

Last updated on July 16th, 2021 at 06:36 pm

Seven Age of Man: Critical Analysis

Shakespeare’s “Seven Ages of Man” is an analogy of the different phases of life that a man goes through during a lifetime. The use of imagery, metaphor, and simile are the strongest figures of speech used to drive home the message of the passage. He starts out with describing the common actions and conditions in which we all find ourselves as a baby who is dependent on a mother figure, then he moves on to describe what each stage thereafter looks and acts like in its own time thereby making his way to the end of a person’s life. Some examples of figures of speech used include, “the whining school boy,” then, “Sighing like a furnace,” “Bearded like the pard,” “round belly,” “beard of formal cut,” “and his big manly voice,/ Turning again towards childish treble,” all discuss by simile and metaphor the phases of a man’s life.  It ends with the man in a “second” childhood when he is old and loses everything from his teeth, sight, taste, and everything else.
The timeline is organized in a way that the audience may follow easily through the passage of a man’s life; and, he uses the rhythm of iambic pentameter, but the structure is not limited to ten syllables of stressed and unstressed accents.

Seven Age of Man: Poetic Devices

The poem is composed in free verse. The style is narrative. The poem describes seven different stages of life in a brief but has a powerful impact throughout.
A metaphor is that figure of speech where comparison of two different things are implied but not clearly stated. Examples of metaphor in the poem are as follows,-
*All the world’s a stage
*And all men and women are merely players
*seeking the bubble reputation (reputation has been termed as short-lived like a bubble)
The ending of the poem completes the metaphor that life is like a stage, and the man plays seven different roles on this stage, coinciding with phases of his life:
“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
The last “scene” or “stage” of a man is old age, where he has no teeth, no eyes, no taste, no nothing (excuse the double negative). This is an example of imagery
A simile is a figure of speech in which two dissimilar objects are compared and the comparison is made clear by the use of terms like ‘like’, ‘such as’ and so on. Examples of simile in the poem are,
*Sighing like furnace
*creeping like a snail
Alliteration is the close repetition of the consonant sounds at the beginning of words to facilitate narration. Example of alliteration in the poem is,
*shrunk shrank
*plays his part
“Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth”
The cannon is an object, so obviously, cannot have a mouth.

Seven Age of Man: Theme

Jaques’ essential point in his “seven ages of man” speech is essential to assert that life is rather arbitrary. He compares life to a play with all of the humanity participating as its actors. Plays too are rather arbitrary. They are important at the moment they are read or performed, but beyond that moment, they serve no greater purpose. Hence, by likening life to a play, Jaques is also saying that life has no greater meaning beyond the point that life is performed, showing us his assertion that life is arbitrary. Hence, the central theme found in his speech is the arbitrariness of life. But as he continues to speak, he also relays seven different common stages of life, performed like seven different acts.

Also Read:  A Midsummer Night's Dream as a Festive Comedy

Seven Age of Man: Tone

This narrative poem which is a soliloquy in nature is an extended metaphor. Jaques, the speaker of these lines has a cynical tone and is often being melodramatic. The formula used by Jaques is a major overgeneralization of human life, which is too widely generalized and demonstrably untrue. However, a softness and calmness can also be easily deciphered in the tone of the speaker.

Seven Age of Man: Important Questions

1.Which of the seven stages described by Shakespeare do you like most and why?.
2. Compare old age with childhood. Also, write similar traits between these two stages.
3. Do you think that this world is a stage? (It means there is no concept of free will)
4. Do you think that the lovers are the same even after passing few centuries?
5. It seems that Shakespeare is against soldiers. How?
Here is a complete video playlist with detailed explanation of the Poem:

 You can also refer to Seven Age of Man: Summary.