A Speech from As You Like It, William Shakespeare
The speech Seven Ages of Man has been extracted from Act II, Scene VII of “As You Like It”. It is uttered by Jacques, one of the group of the noblemen living a life of exile in the Forest of Arden. Jacques’ survey of life breathes his characteristic cynicism. Life to Jacques is like a dramatic spectacle in which he finds little of human glory or idealism. This speech comes from a play written by an actor. Perhaps because he was used to see the same people playing lots of different parts, Shakespeare was struck by the extent to which all life is a performance, people changing roles and always, to some extent, acting.
- If we do all play a number of different parts in our lifetime, we are all performers in a play.
- Does getting through life successfully make you a versatile actor?
- Who writes the script?
- Who directs?
- What does the audience hope to see?
The Stalwart of the World of Literature
William Shakespeare is the undisputed master of the dynasty of literature. He has left undeletable imprints of his creations to all the nooks and corners of the world. His creations like Hamlet, Merchant of Venice, Romeo and Juliet, Anthony and Cleopatra, Julius and Ceaser and The King Richard are recorded in the treasure of English literature as masterpiece. Shakespeare has impressed all the men of letters throughout the Globe. Many acclaimed him as supreme among English writers, and that judgment has firmly stood. People read Shakespearean plays for the know how of the history. Even the Historians refer to Shakespearean plays for the real historical findings. His plays are an eye opener even for the psychiatrists of the modern world. He has the incomparable gift of words. No poet achieves more frequently the inevitable word or phrase; his similes and metaphors present the things and life like the flashes of lightning. To know English and not to read Shakespeare is a waste of knowledge as can be imagined.
Shakespearean Impacts on His Age
William Shakespeare belongs to The Renaissance Age (1500- 1660). His period is also called The Elizabethan Age (1558-1603). His epoch is known as The Shakespearean Era too. By the dynamic impact of his master creations, he changed the socio political outlook of the people of the western world.
A Realistic Portrayal of Human Life
The poem, Seven Ages of Man presents the changes taking place in man’s life at the different stages. Shakespeare calls the world a drama stage and all men and women merely actors. Man emerges on the face of the Earth as an infant. This is the first stage of man’s life, which begins with cries. This is the stage of infancy when he cries and vomits milk in the arms of his nurse. In the following stage, he performs the role of a schoolboy. He does not like to go but has to follow the routine of his society. He goes to school with a burden of books to face Draculas there.
Attainment of Independence and Youth
The third stage of man’s life is filled with frenzy. He is full of sentiments of love. He heaves cold sighs and yearns for a pretty companion. He runs after his beloved. He composes poetry to admire the beauty of his mistress. His heart burns into the furnace of love. He remains crazy for his heart’s throbbing in this stage. This story comes to an end without a proper end. In the following stage, man assumes the role of a blustering soldier. He is full of warmth and enthusiasm. He is highly charged with the sentiments of sacrifice and love for his country. The man is strongly built and wearing a shaggy beard like a leopard. He is short tempered and angry man. He may quarrel with anyone even for a minor issue. He longs to do or die only for his personal honour or the glory of his country.
Time of Prestige, Honour and Reputation
In the fifth stage, he plays the part of The Justice of Peace. He is slightly fat with a bulging belly. He wears beard according to the fashion and manner of time. The spectacles on his nose and his cool minded speech present him as a mature and well-composed personality. Contrary to the past stage, he is prudent, wise and a learned man. He has a graceful, impressive and pleasant personality. This stage is entire contrast to the fourth stage of his life.
Decadence and Declination
In the sixth stage, his physical declination becomes obvious. He is hard of hearing. His sight is affected. He is forgetful and cannot recognize people. He has lost independence and has become burden on others. He is caught in troubles for his physical decadence. This stage is the start of the miseries of his life. Man is terribly grieved now. In the last stage of life the process of tortures is boundless. Man dies by inches when he is deprived of all the senses, which are essential for life; he breathes his last in a miserable condition. In some cases shortly and in great many cases, the teasing process is long continued. Eventually, the seventh stage of man’s life proves to be torturous and puts an end to his life.