Please explain the poem "The Seven Ages".  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Seven Ages of Man," as the character Jaques tells it, is a poem about the stages of life that we all go through if we live out a long life. He starts out comparing life to a play on a stage that we all seem to act out as time marches on. Each of us plays different parts as we meet and go through these seven different stages, but the stages are also alike. First, we are all "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms" when we are born. Then, we attend school as children, which he cites as a "whining schoolboy with his satchel" who goes "unwillingly to school." 

Young adulthood is characterized by all of us becoming a "Lover" as we find love and then becoming a "Soldier" as we venture out into our careers. As we enter the middle-age stage of life, though, we gain a "round belly" and a formal cut beard, which represent progress into authoritative positions and gained wisdom. The sixth stage, which is considered later middle age, is described as follows:

". . . lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound."

This passage shows a man's age because he needs glasses to read, but he has a money bag on his side which also shows him as successful and comfortable after working his whole life. His voice, however, is changing from strong and manly back to a childish pitch because of age.

Finally, the end of the poem comes full circle, just as life does, by comparing old age to the first stage of infancy, as follows:

". . . second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Babies enter the world without good eyesight, without experience, and without teeth, just as people leave it at the end of their lives. Thus, Jaques recounts the cycle of life for humans in "The Seven Ages of Man."


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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dnguha | Student

As depicted by William Shakespeare, in his drama "A You Like It", there are seven stages of man's life.

1. The Infant :-The imfancy is the firat stage. The child is under the responsibility of the nurse. It cries and discharges milk.

2. The Schoolboy:-As in the  common picture, the boy of this age wants to enjoy freedom, and school represents a kind of bondage. So the boy displays reluctance to go to school.

3.The Lover:- The youth feigns the passion of love. He addresses his composition to his mistress, who might exist in his imagination.

4. The Soldier:-Jaques notes that a soldier swears outlandish oaths, wears a rough and shaggy beard, sensitive in matters of honour; and is apt to pick a quarrel and risk his life for the sake of fleeting fame.

5. The Justice:-It is a satire on the Elizabethan Justices of the Peace. It was a custom to present the judges with capons, to secure the goodwill and favour.

6. The Late Middle-aged:- The old man is compared to the pantaloons on the Italian stage--a man who goes about in slippers, wearing glasses, and a pocket on his side. His youthful breeches are too much wide for his withered legs.

7.The Old age:-This is the winter season of human life. The man is now in his second childhood with lost teeth, vision and taste-buds. He gets prepared for the world of oblivion.