Explain three poetic devices in the the poem "The seven stages of a man"."The seven stages of a man" by William Shakespeare

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lynnebh's profile pic

lynnebh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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There are many poetic devices in this poem by Shakespeare.

All the world's a stage,

A metaphor comparing the world to a stage. This is the central metaphor of the entire poem, as Shakespeare explains the different parts man must play "on the stage of life."

There is a simile:

And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school.

"like a snail" - comparing the schoolboy to a snail, creeping slowly to school because he does not want to go to school.

There is an example of personification:

Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth

The cannon is an object, so obviously cannot have a mouth.

The ending of the poem completes the metaphor that life is like a stage, and 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.

 

 

mstultz72's profile pic

mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Here's the poem:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players,
They have their exits and 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.
Then, the whining schoolboy 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 lin'd,
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 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,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Metaphor: "All the world's a stage"

Simile: "And then the lover, Sighing like furnace"

Alliteration: "plays many parts,"; "quick in quarrel,"

Consonance: "shrunk shank"

Sibilance (-s sounds): "shoolboy with his satchel"

Assonance: "sixth age shifts"

End rhyme: "side" / "wide"

Costume/clothing imagery: "spectacles"; "pantaloon"

Body imagery: "mouth"; "belly"; "nose"

Theatre imagery: "stage"; "players"; "entrances"; "exits"

Anaphora: "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Caesura (puntuation in middle): "Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,"

Enjambment (no punctuation between lines): "Seeking the bubble reputation / Even in the cannon's mouth."

End-stop (punctuation at end of line): "Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,"

 

missy575's profile pic

missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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1. Parallelism, or parallel structure is the device through which the repetition of grammatical structures occurs.  Each stage starts with the title of the stage, then a participle phrase or several.

At first the infant, mewling and puking...

And then the schoolboy... creeping like a snail...

And then the lover, sighing like a furnace...

Another parallel moment is the last line: sans... sans...

2. Similes:

creeping like a snail unwilling to go to school

Then a soldier ... bearded like the pard

3. Metaphor: (maybe even an extended metaphor)

All the world's a stage

The comparison here is obvious, I think you can explain it yourself. Watch how the references throughout the rest of the poem use terms from theater (exits, entrances, parts, players)

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