What are the poetic devices used in the poem "Seven Ages of Man?"

Expert Answers
favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First, Shakespeare employs metaphor in the lines, "All the world's a stage / And all the men and women merely players . . ."  He directly compares the world to a theater's stage, and all the men and women in the world to actors who perform on that stage.  

There is also a great deal of imagery in the poem.  For example, there is the visual and auditory image of the infant "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms"; there is also visual imagery in the description of the schoolboy's "shining morning face, creeping like snail / Unwillingly to school."  Here, we get a sense of the schoolboy's bright and hopeful face as well as his reluctance to drag himself to school.  Next, Shakespeare uses an auditory image which is also a simile to describe the lover, who is "Sighing like a furnace": we can hear the puffing of a furnace and imagine the lover to be sighing over his love.  

Shakespeare uses another simile to compare the soldier to "the 'pard" (leopard); his beard is scraggly, but there is something lean and hungry about him: he wishes to make his name and secure his reputation.

Shakespeare employs another metaphor to compare old age to "second childishness," which focuses on the ways in which those two stages of life are similar: people in both stages lack teeth, clear sight, and taste.  He says, finally, that they exist "sans everything": an overstatement or hyperbole.  

tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man" is an analogy of the different phases of life that a man goes through during a lifetime. The use of imagery, metaphor and simile are the strongest figures of speech used to drive home the message of the passage. He starts out with describing the common actions and conditions in which we all find ourselves as a baby who is dependent on a mother figure, then he moves on to describe what each stage thereafter looks and acts like in its own time thereby making his way to the end of a person's life. Some examples of figures of speech used include, "the whining school boy," then, "Sighing like a furnace," "Bearded like the pard," "round belly," "beard of formal cut," "and his big manly voice,/ Turning again towards childish treble," all discuss by simile and metaphor the phases of a man's life.  It all ends with the man in a "second" childhood by the time he is old and loses everything from his teeth, to sight, to taste and everything else.

The timeline is organized in a way that the audience may follow easily through the passage of a man's life; and, he uses the rhythm of iambic pentameter, but the structure is not limited to ten syllables of stressed and unstressed accents.

yohayoha | Student

"all the worlds a stage" metaphor

"and all the men and women merely players" metaphor

"even in the cannon's mouth" personification

"for his shrunk shrank" alliteration