Summary of Seven Ages of a Man
Shakespeare views the world as a stage and men and women as actors on it. They take on seven distinct roles based on their ages. The poet describes the first stage as an infant being carried by a nurse. The infant constantly cries and vomits. Later in life, that infant develops into a schoolboy who is unwilling to attend the fourth stage of a man’s life, school. The third stage is that of a lover who has become absorbed in his romantic thoughts. The lover composes verses in praise of his lady’s beauty. As he matures, he joins the army and becomes a soldier. He is physically fit, but his nature is aggressive, short-tempered, and ambitious. The fifth stage demonstrates that the family man becomes a judge as he matures and gains wisdom. He is an upright, healthy man brimming with wisdom. His appearance is authoritative, and he counsels others. The sixth stage depicts an old man dressed in a pantaloon and spectacles. His authoritative voice has weakened, and he speaks with trembling. The final stage is about a senile man who begins to lose his teeth, vision, and hearing. Following this, the man’s role in the play concludes and he is permanently removed from the stages of his life.
Analysis of Seven Ages of a Man
With the advancement of human civilization, the concept of literature came to human minds. The primary purpose of literature is to assist humans in exercising their imagination. For the first time in human history, it is through the development of literature that man exercised his imagination and preserved it for posterity. That was an incredible period of history because it was during this period that fascination became a possibility for man for the first time. Anything previously untouchable, unthinkable, or unachievable became a possibility. A man could do it, feel it, and embrace it, and all of these things could be accomplished through literary expressions. As a result, literature became a mirror of society. It was through literature that one could encounter something that would have been impossible for that man to encounter under normal circumstances.
William Shakespeare’s poem “The Seven Ages of Man” was one such great attempt to exercise and document imagination.
It is a piece of poetry that expresses the poet’s imagination. Through his imagination, the poet travelled to various stages of man’s life that he was unable to reach physically during his lifetime. Thus, the poet accomplished the unthinkable through the use of his imagination. Although he was not in that phase himself, he was capable of writing about that stage of a man’s life. This is how “The Seven Ages of Man” became one of the great examples of poetry written with the purpose of establishing fascination and imagination as hardcore realities and then documenting them for future generations.
The seven stages of life described in this poetry are infancy, boyhood, adolescence, adolescence, youth, middle age, old age, and finally the inevitable stage of death. Thus, the poet depicted the entire cycle of life.
Infancy is the first stage described in “The Seven Ages of Man.” This is the beginning of life. This stage of life is entered through a natural process called “birth.” A person is at his or her most helpless during this formative stage of life. Nothing is within his control. He is completely reliant on others for everything. Nothing is easy during this stage, as the individual is introduced to the world for the first time at birth. For the first time, the individual is exposed to worldly processes and phenomena.
The infant stage is followed by the toddler stage. This is the stage of childhood. This is the stage at which the individual is first exposed to formal education. It is that stage that can be described ornamentally as the stage in which the boy is set free but is chained everywhere. Shakespeare describes the boy as reluctantly approaching the school. It’s as if he’s being compelled to attend school. That is why the youngster is walking to school. This frame implies that a person is required to do things he does not understand during this stage of life. At this stage of life, a person is required to perform tasks for which the value is unknown to him. As a result, this stage also renders the individual helpless. Numerous events are occurring around him that keep him occupied and tied. And this is a parallel between the first and second stages. In both of these stages, a person is subjected to external control. The only distinction is that control over others gradually but steadily decreases from the first to the second stage.
The third stage is an extremely fascinating period in a man’s life. The is teen age stage. This is the stage at which a man begins to develop feelings for the opposite sex. His primary interest shifts to a female. One could argue that it is during this stage of life that the man realises the significance of being a man for the first time. To demonstrate his availability to his lady love, the man at this stage begins writing poetry. He becomes sentimental, and occasionally, in an attempt to appear presentable in front of his lady love, he mocks himself. This stage of life is significant because it is the first stage that establishes man’s independence. His reliance on others is minimal.
The following phase introduces us to a young man. This is the stage of youth. It is a stage in a man’s life when he is at his most fearless. He is so fearless that he is willing to take any risk. He is zealous. He is audacious. He is a man of action. He is not opposed to a fight at this point in his life. He is willing to go to any length to defend his beliefs. He is making every effort to improve his reputation. He has a lot of time ahead of him, but he lacks the patience to wait for the outcome he desires. He makes a point of completing everything as quickly as possible. He is willing to risk everything he has for the goal he is pursuing. This stage of life is unquestionably the most energising. This is the phase in which the man acquires all of his experience, but he is uninterested in it. He is in this phase as he embarks on a journey but is more concerned with the destination.
The fifth stage is the stage of middle age. At this point in his life, the man has formed an opinion. He is fearless in sharing his viewpoints with others. By this stage of life, the man has established a reputation for himself. His primary objective is to protect his reputation and avoid defamation at all costs. This is the prosperous phase. At this point in his life, the man has acquired wealth and is prepared to enjoy it. He appreciates the finer aspects of life. He appreciates good food. He takes pleasure in being respected by others. He takes pride in his given name. He takes pride in his position.
The fifth stage brings the individual closer to the sixth stage, which is old age. This is the stage at which the man first begins to see the end. At this stage, the man is at his most vulnerable, both physically and psychologically. He speaks with a weak voice. He has no influence over others. He’s lost his allure and influence over those around him. This is another stage in the man’s development when he begins to feel helpless. He is dressed in the manner of an elderly gentleman. He has the demeanour of an elderly man. He views everything through the eyes of an elderly man. He is on the verge of extinction.
Finally, the inevitable stage of life arrives. It is the end. The man gradually begins to deteriorate. He begins to lose his teeth. He begins to bald. The man is completely devoid of strength. He progresses steadily toward the end. He is on the verge of death.
The seven stages of life described in “The Seven Ages of Man” did not introduce the concept of categorising a man’s life. This has been addressed in religious philosophies since before man’s memory. Aristotle, the great scholar, classified man’s life into four stages. From this vantage point, one could argue that Shakespeare’s “The Seven Ages of Man” is an extension of Aristotle’s thought.
Shakespeare was an actor and playwright. As such, he likened the world to the set of a play. He believed in the division of man’s life into stages, much like a director divides a play into stages while directing it. From this, we can deduce that “The Seven Ages of Man” is devoid of imagination. It is a consequence of reality. What the poet was in reality, what he saw and experienced in reality… in theatres and acting sessions… he described in this poetry. It’s as if we’re seeing a reflection of Fellini’s world-famous quote here.
“All art is autobiographical: A pearl is an oyster’s autobiography.”
At the same time, we must bear in mind that Shakespeare died before completing the sixth and seventh stages. Nonetheless, he discovered ways to reach these stages of life and document them in this poetry. How was that possible without the use of imagination?
This is the one-of-a-kind quality of “The Seven Ages of Man.” It brings readers, thinkers, and analysts to a state of mental indecision and conflict. The outcome of this conflict is unknown… “The Seven Ages of Man” provokes thought.