What is the point of view of William Shakespeare's "All the World's a Stage"?

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clarendon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The point of view in this speech is certainly that of a detached philosopher, but the main point is that it is the view of a cynic, a position perfectly in keeping with Jaques' other statements.  We are all "merely players" on a stage, the infant isn't innocent, but "mewling and puking,"and so on to old age.  Most disturbing is the nihilism indicated at the end of the speech.  That we lose our physical faculties is a given, but that Jaques identifies the last age as one of "mere oblivion / . . . sans everything" has important philosophical and theological overtones.  It is a foreshadow of Macbeth's famous soliloquy in 5.5 of that play. 

Certainly Shakespeare was thinking of actual infants and soldiers and justices that he observed, but the cynicism is foreign to him.  In fact, as is typical with him, he helps the audience to interpret this famous speech by giving important action right after Jaques has spoken.  When Orlando comes in carrying Adam, it shows that man at the end of his life isn't "sans everything," but is still a person, valuable and worthy of respect.  Jaques' ideas are dangerous; fortunately, since this is a comedy, his views are excluded from the happy ending.

ecofan74 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "All the World's a Stage," the narrator relates the story of life, framing it into the seven ages (stages) of life.  The narrator moves from the infant of the first age, to the "whining schoolboy" of the second, to the lover, to a soldier, the justice, the sixth age of "the lean and slippered pantaloon," and the seventh age is a "second childishness."  From the general structure of the poem, one can say the narrator's point of view is that of the audience to the stage of the world.  The narrator gives no real indication of being part of the action, but someone who is interested in the action.  In many ways, this is very much like Shakespeare himself.  He writes what he observes, and in order for him to do so he must have to ability to stand back and observe those around him. 

cratcher | Student

Modern behavioral scientists will tell you that, although we assume that people go about their lives taking second by second decisions they are usually following a pattern based on the "role" they are performing, it's as if they are following a script they have memorised.

Problems arrise when they encounter an unexpected situation  which their "role" cannot accommodate. As an example, consider a person doing their weekly shopping at a supermarket and the fire alarm sounds. They find it very hard to give up the role of being a shopper and take on the role of saving their own life and sometimes leave it to late. 

People who have learned a role which involves reacting to emergencies, such as a casualty ward nurse or a police officer, react well to such situations because they are like an actor with two characters to play and are able to "switch roles" quickly. On the other hand the reaction of most shoppers to a fire alarm is to carry on being a shopper for a considerable time.  Many people die in fires because the instinct to continue acting out their role does not allow them to react quickly enough to the new situation and unfortunatelty some of them die because of it.

If, for example, an accountant in a factory is given training as a fire warden, he will quickly change roles if an alarm sounds. If other employees are asked to particupate in fire "drills" they too will develop the capacity to change rolls in the event of a fire.  This is not something that people do naturally, they have to be taught it just like an actor has to learn a new script.

Shakespear understood that people act out their lives in a series of roles rather than making decisions about what to do on a second by second basis. He also added over one hundred new words to the English language.Quite a clever fellow!






mahijain | Student

according to me all the worlds a stage sends  us a message that a man must follow aall the stages of a life:)