How do poetic devices help suggest underlying meaning in the "All the world's a stage" monologue from As You Like It by William Shakespeare?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jaques of As You Like It by William Shakespeare employs the theatrical metaphor of "All the world's a stage" for his famous monologue.  This speech is, of course, an extended metaphor as the idea of people playing a role throughout life is carried througout the entire speech.  And, with this metaphor of the life as a stage, there is the underlying suggestion that fate plays a rather strong role in one's life and that one is not quite as independent as one imagines oneself.  In addition, while the individual takes so seriously his/her role, this role is yet merely entertainment for others as the audience in this theatre of life.

Within the metaphors of each stage of life there are other literary devices employed.  For instance, in the lines about the young boy, there are similes:

Then the whining school boy with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Likewise, in the description of the boy as he grows older there is also a simile:

And then the lover, sighing like furnace

So, too, is the soldier compared to a pard (an animal from Medieval bestiaries):

.....Then a soldier

Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard

In addition to the similes, Shakespeare employs much parallelism; for instance,

Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel

With spectacles on nose, and pouch on side

Metaphor is in this line:

Seeking the bubble reputation

Personification follows in the next line:

Even in the cannon's mouth

The poetic devices, such as simile and metaphor and personification, help suggest the underlying meaning by providing vivid comparisons that are commonplace, common to everyone's experience, and humorously true and by creating vivid images that are easy to understand.

Read the study guide:
As You Like It

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