Explain the theme of the poem "The seven stages of a man".  "The seven stages of a man" by William Shakespeare

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

To say that "All the world's a stage, / And all the men and women merely players," does seem to reduce humanity's relative importance, or at least the importance of each of us as individuals. We all have our "exits" and our "entrances," we come and go, come and go, and life remains basically routine (no matter how special or individual we may think we are). We all play the same "parts": the infant, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the old man, and, finally, we enter second childhood when we are, once again, like babies. It is a sad end, "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything," despite our "eventful histor[ies]."

Ultimately, then, I think we can extract two more themes from this text. First, that life is, for the most part, routine—as we, most of us, go through all same stages, or "play the same parts," to retain the metaphor. Second, that there is a strange sort of tragedy to life: that after we have lived what seems to us to be quite "eventful" lives, we once again end up as babies, unable to care for ourselves and unable to really take part in life anymore because we are "sans everything." We have nothing left, and we come to depend on others again until, finally, we die.

missy575 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are two themes I see clearly emerging:

1. Life always changes. Once you have mastered something, you have to move on to the next stage and experience it's problems afresh. It refers to the parts or roles we play at various stages just like you see in a play.

2. Life is a cycle. You could say it ebbs and flows or goes back and forth, but from the beginning to the end of this you see a pattern. In the beginning, the infant is "mewling and puking in the nurses arms." By the end of life we get to some of that second "childishness" with the old man oblivious or senile, and missing all kinds of things (taste, eyesight, teeth, and everything).  These two "parts" men play throughout their lives are literally the same.