Identify the figure of speech in "his act being seven ages."

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In act 2, scene 7 of Shakespeare's As You Like It, Jaques is prompted by the lines of Duke Senior to engage in an extended metaphor comparing the seven stages of man's life to acts in a play.

DUKE SENIOR: Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy; This...

Unlock
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

In act 2, scene 7 of Shakespeare's As You Like It, Jaques is prompted by the lines of Duke Senior to engage in an extended metaphor comparing the seven stages of man's life to acts in a play.

DUKE SENIOR: Thou seest we are not all alone unhappy;
This wide and universal theatre
Presents more woeful pageants than the scene
Wherein we play in. (2.7.142-145)

Jaques responds with the famous "Seven Ages of Man" speech.

JAQUES: 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 ... (As You Like It, 2.7.146-150)

Shakespeare uses this metaphor in other plays as well, but not to the extent to which he extends the metaphor in Jaques's speech in As You Like It.

In Macbeth, Macbeth has just been told that Lady Macbeth has died, and he closes his "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech with a similar metaphor.

MACBETH: Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. (Macbeth, 5.5.27-32)

In The Merchant of Venice, the play opens with Antonio and his friends trying to determine the source of Antonio's melancholy. Antonio decides that it's simply his role in life to be sad, in a metaphor remarkably similar to the one in As You LIke It.

ANTONIO: I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano;
A stage, where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one. (The Merchant of Venice, 1.1.80-82)

These metaphors are also examples of metatheatre, in which Shakespeare draws attention to the fact that the audience is watching a play, in much the same way that Shakespeare uses "The Murder of Gonzago" as a play-within-a-play in Hamlet, and the "rude mechanicals'" performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team