All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare — Explanation and notes for NCERT CBSE Class 9 students
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.
And then the whining school-boy, 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;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d 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.
This is a monologue spoken by the fictional character Jacques in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Act ii, Section vii).
The undertone of pessimism and satire is unmistakably etched in the poem uttered by Jacques. The very first word in the opening line — All the word’s a stage – prepares the reader for what is there in store for him in subsequent lines.
The playwright-poet Shakespeare harps on the periodicity and predictability of a man’s life. Through Jacque’s voice, he declares that a person’s life on earth, from cradle to cremation, is pre-ordained. He has to pass through seven different stages, think and behave in more or less set pattern, and, finally, wither gradually to fall into the jaws of death. All humans traverse this inexorable journey to the point where they bid adieu to the world. It all happens very methodically; just the way actors follow the script and direction of their directors, while on stage. Their entry into and exit from the stage has to be as per the script. There is little room for defiance or deviation.
First stage –Man makes his first appearance on earth as an infant. He cries inconsolably, messes up the nurse’s hand and challenges the patience of the mother.
Second stage – He grows up to a child. He becomes a lad with a glowing face. He goes to school very reluctantly, carrying his heavy school bag on his back. The discipline and routine of the school upsets him.
Third stage – He keeps growing. As he reaches his adolescent stage, he becomes romantic. The opposite sex attracts him. Lovelorn and sad, he foolishly discovers great beauty in a girl’s eyebrows. He puts up with all the frustration.
Fourth stage – The energy and the valor of the armed forces beckon him. He becomes a soldier. The challenges of the battlefield romanticize him. He grows rough beard as a manifestation of his manliness and resolve. As part of his military training, he takes oaths that look strange to an ordinary mortal. He cherishes honor, reputation and recognition. Enemy canon holds little scare for him. Death in the battlefield does not deter him.
Fifth stage – He relapses to an easy-going relaxed life. His waistline bulges. Exuding the wisdom of an experienced man, he becomes saner and reticent. He thinks and talks like a justice. Emotions fail to sway him.
Sixth stage — Old age catches up with him. His limbs and organs become feeble. He loses his mental agility and balance. Unmindful of other’s comments, he wears baggy dresses, normally worn by sick people and women. Sharpness of voice leaves him, making him talk in a whistling tone.
Seventh and final stage – It is the dusk of a person’s life. He loses his control and balance. In his thought and manners, he behaves like a child. For every small thing in his day-to-day life, he seeks a helping hand from others. Mind does not retain memories; teeth fall and eyesight wanes. Hearing also gets impaired. At this stage, he is just a few steps away from his death. Finally, one day he breathes his last.
Metaphors used by Shakespeare ..
1. All the world is a stage. Describing the world as a ‘stage’ is a metaphor.
2. All the men and women are merely players. ‘players’ is a metaphor. ‘Players’ is a metaphor.
3. Creeping like snail . It denotes slow, hesitant walk of the child. It is a metaphor.
4. Shining like furnace .. It describes an adolescent’s sparkling skin and radiant appearance. It is a metaphor