All the world is a stage

Introduction: At Stratford-on-Avon, in 1564, the greatest genius, myriad-minded Shakespeare was born. His father, John, had been a small shopkeeper and the poet had two sisters and three brothers. When he was 13 years old his education was cut short, and he had to work to support the family. He soon took up an actor’s career and in 1593 published his first work, Venus and Adonis. He has written 37 plays and two lengthy poems. He had a complete understanding of emotions, humoral senses and human feelings. He painted all the characters with equal truth and equal force, from kings down to peasants.

Characters of Shakespeare aren’t people, they are an immortal species. He was not of an age but of all times, because his men and women are true to human life ‘s eternal facts. In his birthday 23rd April, 1616, he breathed his last.

The present poem is one of the most frequently quoted passages in Shakespeare. It is taken from his play As You Like It. The poem starts with a phrase, ‘All the World’s a Stage,’ which is well known throughout the world. Shakespeare here compares life to a stage and has divided life into seven stages each with their own varied qualities and characteristics.


Shakespeare seems to have the impression, in the poem, that human life is not real. What we see and hear isn’t a reality. Human life is a play of make-believe. Here Shakespeare traces human life through the famous seven ages – the infant in arms, the schoolboy, the lover, the soldier, the justice, the retired man, and the worn-out senior, sinking back into dissolution. The whole world’s a stage. We ‘re only actors. We enter the stage and we go off it again. One man in his lifetime plays a lot of roles. At first, he plays the part of the infant, crying and throwing milk in the arms of the nurse.

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Then he plays the part of a schoolboy who is not willing to go to school. With his shining face of the morning, he trudges at the pace of the snail. Then there comes the lover. He sighs like a furnace, and writes pitiful verses, addressing his mistress. He plays the role of a soldier. It’s stocked with all the violent oaths. He ‘s wearing a wonderful beard. In a quarrel, he is too sensitive and fast and hasty. He is willing to sacrifice his life for the sake of unsubstantial glory. Then he will play the role of judge. He’s a bulging belly man, with severe eyes. He’s a very wise man.

Then Shakespeare describes his old age. It’s pretty funny. The old man is in slippers, wearing glasses. His mannish voice once more turns into a child’s shrill tone. The last role is the second child. It’s so full of forgetfulness. It’s without teeth, without eyes, without taste, without everything.

Appreciation of the poem ‘All the World Is A Stage

The poem ‘All the World is A Stage’ was written by the famous English poet and playwright, William Shakespeare. There is no particular rhyme scheme in this poem, but the poet has written a poem with a steady rhythm of five beats in each line. Because of the uniformity of the rhythm, the poem is a blank verse.

The figures of speech used in the poem are Alliteration, Consonance, Hyperbole, Inversion, Metaphor, Metonymy, Onomatopoeia, Repetition, Simile and Transferred Epithet. An example of Simile in the poem is “Then a soldier full of strange oaths and bearded like a pard,” where the beard of a soldier was compared to that of a leopard. The poem is essentially a life metaphor. Each man has different roles to play in his life. It demonstrates that life is organised in a specific order in which each person lives his or her life through various phases. It illustrates the theme of constant change in life.

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Terms to Remember:

Merely players: life is but all a play and that there is no reality in it.

Exits: departures

Seven ages: seven stages of life- infant, schoolboy, lover, soldier, judge, pantaloon and old age, second childishness.

Mewling: crying

Puking: throwing out milk

Mewling and Puking: the idea here is of an infant crying and then throwing up part of the milk.

Whining: complaining

Satchel: bag

Creeping like a snail: moving at a snail’s pace as unwilling to go to school. A boy is compared with a snail …… use of ‘simile’.

Sighing like a furnace: like the outrush of smoke from the chimney.

Like the pard: probably rough and shabby.

Jealous: here ‘sensitive’.

Bubble reputation: reputation which is as unsustainable as a bubble.

In the cannon’s mouth: at the risk of his life.

Justice: judge

Capon: castrated cock

Saws: sayings

Instances: illustrations.

Pantaloon: here ‘old man’. The reference here is to “Don Pataleone” the old man deceived by his young wife.

Shrunk: shrivelled, lean and wrinkled.

Shank: the part of the human leg between the knee and the ankle. Here ‘leg’.

Treble: threefold. Here, ‘shrill accents of a child’.

Oblivion : forgetfulness

Sans: without

A) Answer the following questions in one word/phrase/sentence each.

1) What is compared to the stage in the poem?
Ans. All the world
2) What are the seven stages of man?
Ans. The acts of man.
3) What is the second stage of man?
Ans.The whining schoolboy.
4) Who sighs like a furnace?
Ans. The lover.
5) Who is compared to the snail’s pace?
Ans. The whining schoolboy.
6) Who is jealous in honour and quick in a quarrel?
Ans. A soldier.
7) Who are compared to the actors in the play?
Ans. All the men and women.

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B) Complete the following sentences choosing the correct alternative from the ones given below them:

1. According to Shakespeare, all the world is ………………
a) a burden
c) a stage
b) beautiful
d) dangerous
2. By ‘exits and entrances’ the poet means ………………
a) deaths and births
b) dramatic acts
c) departures and entries
d) stage directions
3. …………….. writes woeful ballads.
a) A schoolboy
b) A lover
c) A soldier
d) The poet
4. One man in his lifetime plays many parts, his acts being ………………
a) varied
b) myriad
c) many
d) seven ages
5. …………….. is jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel.
a) A schoolboy
b) A lover
c) A soldier
d) An old man
6. The justice is full of wise saws and ………………
a) jealous in honour
b) strange oaths
c) modern instances
d) with spectacles
7. …………….. is second childhood.
a) Sixth age
b) Seventh age
c) Infancy
d) Fifth age

B) Answers
1. c) a stage
2. a) deaths and births
3. b) A lover
4. c) many
5. c) A soldier
6. c) modern instances
7. b) Seventh age

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