Explain in full detail the personification and its effectiveness in the passage "The Seven Stages of Man" from As You Like It by William Shakespeare.

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Personification is the attribution of human characteristics to non-human things. An example of personification occurs in character Jaques’s soliloquy in Act II, Scene 7 of As You Like It lines 18 to 24:

The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side,
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again towards childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

Here, the sixth age of man itself is represented figuratively as if a human being and, in particular, as the character type of the old man in Italian comedy named Pantaloon. As Pantaloon in traditional Italian comedy is a miserly hoarder of his money and fearful that someone will try to rob him, so these same qualities are implied by the personification of the sixth age by this character. Furthermore, Shakespeare’s descriptions of this age personified fits characterizations of Pantaloon in Italian comedy. Accordingly, the sixth age is "slipper'd" because the old man seldom travels outside his house, staying at home and guarding his savings.

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Shakespeare's famous and frequently quoted passage comes from the melancholy Jacques in Act II, Scene 7 of As You Like It.  In the part in which Jacques characterizes the young man as a soldier who is full of his pride and arrogant about his manhood,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick to quarrel

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon's mouth. (2.7.154-156)

In line 156, the cannon is personified since the opening out of which the cannon balls explode is given the human feature of a mouth.  This figure of speech is effective because it suggests the bravado of the young man who would look down a cannon's mouth and not be afraid.  In addition, it also suggests the foolhardiness of the soldier who rushes into battle ignoring the possibility that he may easily be killed.  As in all the other stages that Jacques describes, man is powerless and worthy of ridicule.

 

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