Would the speaker in "The Road Not Taken" agree with Jacques' statement from As You Like It that "All the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players"? Why or why not?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interpretative question and, ironically but perhaps fittingly, the speaker of The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost would probably both agree and disagree with Jacques' well-known, well-loved and often repeated and paraphrased monologue from Act II, scene vii, lines 140-166 of As You Like It by William Shakespeare which begins "All the world's a stage..." Frost's poem deals with how making a choice has the potential to be life-changing. It is because of this need to make a choice that the narrator agonizes over his decision, worrying more about what he might have lost in NOT choosing one path rather than concentrating on the benefits of the path he does choose. So to ask him whether he would agree with Jacques' statement would definitely create a conundrum for him.  

In the play, Jacques is forever philosophizing and his melancholy always contrasts with the lighter side of any conversation. He achieves little and spends his time thinking and pondering but with no result. This definitely compares to the poem's narrator who apparently looks over the path several times, is about to make a decision but then considers another aspect that may affect his decision, even though he knows that whichever one he chooses, the elements have "worn them really about the same." Therefore both men achieve little for all their brooding and contemplating.

However, there is a stark contrast between Jacques' predictable end where everyone is "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything." The decision that Frost's narrator makes "has made all the difference" suggesting that, for him, the decision is crucial because there would have been a different outcome along the other path. This is the source of the narrator's sadness because he will never know the effects of having made an alternate choice. Jacques suggests that decisions have no influence over the ultimate result because the seven stages are predetermined anyway. 

Both the poem's narrator and Jacques reveal a less than ideal scenario and concentrate on the negative aspects of life, its journey and its outcome and so the speaker may well agree with Jacques about life being a string of disappointments (although the narrator's is because of poor choices whereas Jacques' is because of destiny). However, he would not agree that "this strange eventful history" is void of choice. Therefore, it is unlikely that he could make a definitive choice but if he did, it would be to disagree with Jacques but to then lament his decision. 

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As You Like It

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