How can you explain this phrase of William Shakespeare's famous poem "Seven Ages of Man" from in As You Like It: "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything"?

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lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you look at the entire speech, Shakespeare gives a quick snippit to show each stage of life.  He starts with the crying infant and progesses to the school-boy, the young lover, the soldier, the political man (justice), the aging man, the ends with the man very near death.  In the line before the quote in your question, Shakespeare implies that men revert to a "second childhood" and "mere oblivion."  He means that as we age we progress from only acting on instinct at birth to go through life gaining more and more, but we end where were began, and then with even less than we began with.  As the previous post noted, "sans" means without.  So at the end of life, man is without teeth (like an infant), without the ability to see (like a child's limited view), and without taste (like a child who only experiences one taste, mother's milk).  With death comes the end of everything -- even those most basic instinctual things we are born with.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What Shakespeare is saying in the line that you cite is that all people eventually die.  In this passage from As You Like It, he has gone through what he says are the seven stages of human (male) life and now he is pointing out that there is one last stage -- death.

The words "sans" means "without."  It is a French word that is often used in English even today.  So he is saying that in the last age of a man, the man is without eyes, taste, or anything else.  He also says that this is the "last stage of all" and that it is the stage that ends a man's "history."   So clearly, he is talking about death.

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As You Like It

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