Full Summary of All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare Class 11 English

all the world's a stage summary

All the World’s A Stage Poem

all the world's a stage summary

About the poet

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford upon-Avon, England in 1564. His father, John Shakespeare was a hosier(specialized in glove making). William Shakespeare is one of the greatest dramatists of all time. He belonged to the ripest literary era of English Literature.

He is famous for introducing a variety of characters and several new English words He has written both comedies and tragedies. He was an actor and director as well. He had founded a theatre named Globe Theatre in London.

He had written thirty-seven plays and almost one fifty-four sonnets during his lifetime. Shakespeare went to King Edward VI Grammer School in Stratford, where he got an education in Latin grammar and literature.

He never entered any renowned college or university yet he composed the most thoughtful and sensational plays of all times. Some of his most successful plays were King Lear, Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Taming of the shrew, Tempest, As you like It, Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale’ etc. He died in 1616.

Summary | All the World’s A Stage

This poem is a masterpiece of Shakespeare’s keen observation and fine poetry. All the World’s A Stage is an extract from Shakespeare’s famous play As You Like It. Shakespeare is regarded as the world’s greatest dramatist and poet.

In this poem, he has masterfully described various stages of human life. He compares the world with a big stage and all human beings are actors and actresses. Man first appears in this stage as an infant crying and vomiting in the arms of a nurse or mother.

Then he is seen as a schoolboy with a shining morning face, walking slowly and unwillingly to school. Soon he becomes a young man burning with the passion of love and singing in praise of his beloved. In the next stage, he is like an ambitious soldier who is ready to undertake any adventure in order to gain honor and fame.

In the next stage, he plays his role as wise and mature justice. Then we find him as an old man with spectacles on the nose and a bag in his hand. His size shrinks and his manly voice turns into a thin childish voice. His last stage is very pathetic as he loses almost all his senses and joys of life.

The poem draws a sad and realistic picture of human life. The underlying meaning is that life is temporary and changing phases of life pass rather too quickly. The language is simple and the imagery is attractive. He shows us that man’s stay in his world is quite temporary. After performing the role allotted by God, he leaves this world.

Text with Explanation

Lines 1-6

All the world’s a stage
And all the men and women merely players
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Reference and Context

These lines have been taken from the poem All the World’s a stage written by

William Shakespeare.

In this poem, the poet uses the imagery of acting on stage. He decides human life into seven stages. He says that this world is a great stage of life. All human beings are just like actors.

They play their roles and leave the stage through the door of death. These stages of a man’s life are a baby, a schoolboy, a lover, a soldier, a judge, an old man, and a very old man.

Explanation

In these lines, Shakespeare describes the various stages of human life. He says that this world is like a stage on which all human beings appear as actors. They enter the stage at their fixed times and leave it on their turn.

One man plays seven roles in his life. He starts his journey of life as a child. Shakespeare has given a realistic picture of a child. A child is a helpless creature. At this stage, he is seen crying and vomiting out milk in his mother’s arms.

He drinks a large quantity of milk but does not digest it. He seems totally helpless and dependent in this stage. In this way, he makes her clothes dirty. The nurse or mother has to look after him and feed him.

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Lines 7- 9

And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel,
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, William Shakespeare wants to tell us that human life is not a fixed and static thing. It is constantly growing and changing. Man becomes a schoolboy after passing through the period of childhood.

In the second stage of human life, man can be seen as a complaining schoolboy with a shining morning face walking slowly but not get ready for school.

Perhaps, change in atmosphere, homesickness, the burden of new responsibility and the strange and stern attitude of the teacher make him go to school reluctantly.

Shakespeare has drawn a beautiful picture of his schoolboy. He compares it with the movements of an insect snail. Snail is known for its slow movements. It is a creeping insect.

The school-going boy also marches to the school like a snail. He always complains about school, homework, or the teacher. He is not satisfied with his school and does not want to go to school.

Lines 10-12

And then the lover
Sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’s eyebrow

Reference and Context

Same as for lines1-6

Explanation

In these lines, William Shakespeare has described the third stage of man’s life in a realistic manner. The third stage starts with the man’s stepping into adolescence. Now he is full of deep emotions and sexual passion.

He is full of energy and vigor. In this stage of life, man is lost in the world of his own dreams. He runs after his mission in a wild and passionate manner. He becomes a lover and craves a sweetheart.

When he misses his dream queen, he sings sad songs and adores her beauty. The picture which Shakespeare has given us about the feelings, emotions, and behavior of a lover is quite correct. Every young man behaves in a similar manner at this stage of life.

Lines 13-16

Then a soldier
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard
Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon’s mouth

Reference to Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, William Shakespeare has given us the most realistic and accurate picture of the fourth stage of man’s life. In this time man becomes an ambitious soldier. He is ready to undertake any adventure in order to gain honor, glory, and fame.

In fact, at this stage, a man has all the qualities of a fit soldier. He is at the climax of his youth and physical strength. His practical life begins at this stage. He sets high aims and makes great vows. With his small beard, he looks like a leopard.

Power in his body forces him to accept any challenge. He wants to surpass others. He craves fame. Even for temporary fame, he is ready to take risks in his life. During this career, he is always ready to undertake adventure and take risks for money and reputation.

Lines 17- 21

And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon Lin’d
With eyes severe, and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances
And so he plays his part.

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, Shakespeare has drawn a very beautiful picture of man’s fifth stage of life. In the fifth stage, a man plays his part as a wise and serious justice. Now, he is mature in mind. He becomes a good judge of things.

He can wisely tell right from wrong. His belly becomes round due to eating fat cocks. He has a beard of normal cut. He becomes strict in dealing with routine matters. The severity in his eyes shows the seriousness of the situation.

He pays full attention to the details of every matter. His conversation is full of proverbs and wise sayings. In his conversation, he uses instances of past and present events. In this way, he plays a very important and useful role in society.

Lines 22-28

The sixth age shifts,
Into the lean and slipper pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side
His youthful hose well sav’d, a world too wide,
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, The poet describes the sixth stage of human life. In the sixth stage of life, a man appears to be an old person. He becomes weak and thinks that he has retired from the activities of life.

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The man becomes slim and his former garments become loose to him. He starts wearing spectacles. The skin of his cheek starts dangling. The clothes of his youth become very loose and wide his shrunk legs.

He becomes so weak that he slips and stagger when he walks. He trembles at every step. His big and strong manly voice changes into a thin childish voice and a sound of a whistle can be heard in his breath. In this way, he plays his role in the world.

Lines 29- 32

Last scene of all
That ends this strange eventful history
Is second childishness and mere oblivion?
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything

Reference and Context

Same as for lines 1-6

Explanation

In these lines, the poet describes the last stage of human beings. The last stage is the stage of oblivion and forgetfulness. It can be called extreme old age. It is the stage of total forgetfulness and second childishness. This stage puts an end to the eventful life of man.

Man can not enjoy the charms of life. He becomes without teeth, without eyesight, without taste, and without everything. This is once again the stage of total helplessness. It evokes a feeling of pathos. At this stage man’s life becomes very painful and difficult.

Important Questions and Answers

Question 1

Why does Shakespeare call the world a stage?

Write a note on Shakespeare’s accurate observation of life in All the World’s a Stage  

Answer

Shakespeare has described the seven stages of man’s life. In each stage, man imagines himself as great and important. Shakespeare has described each stage of man’s life with a great choice of words. He uses living and beautiful images to describe the different stages of life.

The period of childhood has been delineated in a funny manner with the help of images mewling and puking in the nurse’s arm. The school goes to his school unwillingly. He has described to be creeping like a snail.

The lover sights like a furnace. A soldier is bearded like the pard. A few other words may not be out of place to mention for the description of different stages of man’s life. Choice of words is so appropriate.

The whole poem has been written with a full dramatic style. We see every stage of life going before our eyes. The poem is written in blank verse. The rhyme scheme is missing from the poem.

The poet has divided human life generally into seven periods or stages. The seven stages described by Shakespeare are symbolic of everyman’s life on earth. An infant always behaves in the way he does in the poem.

Most boys and girls are unwilling to go out of home for studies or some regular activities. All young people are moved by the passion for love and sex and like to be lovers and beloved. They want to fight for or struggle for their country in their spirit of patriotism.

Later in life, they want in a responsible position like that of a judge. The last two stages of old and very old men and women are common to all humanity. The poem is in fact an elegy on man’s universal state of helplessness and ultimate destruction.

Question 2

All the World’s A Stage in fact discusses the journey of life. Elaborate.

Answer

In this poem, William Shakespeare has beautifully explained seven phases of human life. He compares the world with a big stage and all human beings are actors and actresses. Firstly, a man appears on stage as an infant who cries and vomits in the arms of a nurse or mother.

Secondly, he is seen as a schoolboy with a shining morning face, walking slowly and unwillingly to school. Thirdly, he becomes a young burning with the passion of love and singing in praise of his beloved.

The fourth stage is that of a passionate soldier who is ready to undertake any adventure in order to gain honor and fame. Fifthly, he plays his part as a wise and serene justice. Sixthly, we find him as an old man with spectacles on the nose and a bag in his hand.

His size shrinks and his manly voice turns into a thin childish voice. His last stage is very pitiable as he loses almost all his senses and joys of life. The poem shows a sad and realistic picture of human life. The poet expresses to us that a man’s stay in this world is temporary.

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After performing the role allotted to him by God, he leaves the world. I fact, the poem discusses the journey of a man in this world. In fact, human beings play their parts in life as characters play their roles on the stage.

Life is a drama, as the world is a stage and we human beings are actors. They intoxicate themselves with power, beauty, and wealth. They remain forgetful of the last two phases of their lives. So this shows the end of human life.

Question 3

Which stage, in your opinion is most accurately described?

Answer

In this poem, the poet has divided human life into seven stages. These stages are based on human activities from infancy to old age. He has given artistic details of various ages. It shows his keen observation and wonderful understanding of human life.

The description of various stages is quite accurate and truthful but the description of the lover’s stage is marvelous.  The poet says that during youth time a love burns with the passion of love.

He is full of deep emotions. When he breaths, he sounds like a furnace. He also sings love songs in praise of the beautiful eyebrows of his beloved. His songs are full of grief and pathos as he wishes to get his beloved as soon as possible.

The description of a young man in this poem is accurate. The deep feelings and passions in a lover are a natural thing. In fact, sexual passion is at its peak due to adult age. The simile of signing like a furnace is apt and suitable.

The third stage of the lover in man’s life is the most appealing in the poem. It is a common experience to find lovers in their youth thirsting for love and satisfaction in the company of their beloved.

Shakespeare has delineated this third stage of man’s life in every attractive and interesting way because he provides a true picture of a lover anxious to get his beloved. A young man cannot disagree with Shakespeare’s description of the lover.

Question 4

Write a note on the fourth and fifth stages of man’s life.

Explain the fourth and fifth stage of life as depicted in All the World’s a Stage

Answer

William Shakespeare has shown us the most realistic and accurate picture of the fourth stage of man’s life. In this time man becomes a passionate soldier. He is ready to undertake any adventure in order to gain honor, glory, and fame.

In fact, at this stage, a man has all the qualities of a fit soldier. He is at the peak of his youth and physical strength. His practical life begins at this stage. He sets high aims and makes great vows.

with his small beard, he looks like a leopard. Power in his body forces him to accept any challenge. He wants to surpass others. Even for temporary fame, he is ready to take risks in his life. For the sake of reputation, he is ready to jump into The cannon’s mouth.

Through the metaphor of cannon, the poet brings the irony of the soldier’s situation. He wants to become famous but he is not remembered long after his act of bravery or even death. The bubble reputation must burst or end in nothingness.

In the fifth stage, a man plays his role as a wise and serious justice. Now, he is mature in mind. He becomes a good judge of things. He can wisely tell right from wrong. His belly becomes round due to eating fat cocks. His beard is fashionable.

He pays full attention to the details of every matter. His conversation is full of proverbs and wise sayings. In his conversation, he uses instances of past and present events. In this way, he plays a very important and useful role in society.

The fifth stage of man’s life described by Shakespeare is so well known to us all. We see judges of law courts in their mature age. They are surely very true to the poet’s delineation. The judges of the highest courts enjoy all kinds of facilities of life.

They live in grand houses, eat fine food, and have servants of all kinds. Their bellies are full of chicken and other rich food. They keep in excellent health which comes from their modes of life and satisfaction.

The fourth and fifth stages of man’s life are thus, very important for social and cultural continuity and national integrity. On them the well-being, dignity, and true progress of all states. The absence of judges in our country shook the very foundations of our society.

Source: Educationallodge

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