All the World’s a Stage by William Shakespeare

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Here, you will find a summary and questions/answers to chapter 1 (poetry) “All the World’s a Stage” by William Shakespeare which is a part of Class 12 Alternative English syllabus for students studying under the Nagaland Board of School Education (NBSE).

All the World's a Stage

Summary: This poem is a masterpiece of Shakespeare’s astute observation and beautiful poetry. All the World’s a Stage is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s classic play As You Like It. Shakespeare is often considered the world’s greatest dramatist and poet. In this poem, he expertly describes several periods of human life. He compares the world to a large stage, and all humans are actors and actresses. Man first appears in this stage as an infant sobbing and vomiting in the arms of a nurse or mother. Then he is seen as a schoolboy with a bright morning face, walking slowly and grudgingly to school. Soon, he matures into a young man filled with love and singing in praise of his sweetheart. In the following stage, he is like an ambitious soldier eager to embark on any adventure in order to acquire honour and fame.

In the following stage, he assumes the role of wise and mature justice. Then we see him as an elderly guy, wearing spectacles on his nose and holding a bag. His stature diminishes, and his masculine voice becomes a thin childlike voice. His final stage is heartbreaking, as he loses practically all of his senses and joys in life. The poem provides a sad yet truthful portrait of human life. The underlying idea is that life is transitory, and the many stages of life pass far too swiftly. The language is straightforward, and the visual is appealing. He demonstrates that man’s presence in his environment is just transient. He departs from this world after fulfilling the job assigned to him by God.

Answer the following questions briefly.

1. Why does the schoolboy creep like a snail?

Answer: According to the poet, the schoolboy creeps like a snail since he watches him going to school grudgingly, grumbling, and carrying his school bag. The poet compares the schoolboy to a snail because he moves slowly with a schoolbag, much like a snail moves slowly with a big shell on its back.

2. What is meant by “exits” and “entrances”?

Answer: The poet’s “exit” and “entrances” refer to man’s death and birth, respectively.

3. Why is the last stage of man’s life called ‘second childishness’?

Answer: The poet refers to the final stage of man’s life as “second childishness,” since when a man grows old, he behaves and acts like a child. An elderly man, according to the poet, is similar to a child in that he lacks teeth, has poor eyesight, and has lost interest in everything around him.

4. What are the problems that are faced by soldiers?

Answer: The soldiers’ issues include competing for honour, controlling their fury, seeking an exaggerated reputation, and even performing their job and justice for the country. The poet also claims that they are full of swear words and dress up like leopards.

5. What is the fifth stage of man’s life?

Answer: The fifth stage of man’s life is when he transforms into justice, knowing what is good and right. At this point, he may be the best person to approach in order to determine who is correct and who is incorrect.

Explain the following lines with reference to the context.

1. All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:

a. What does the poet mean by ‘All the world’s a stage’?

Answer: The poet intended by “All the World’s a Stage” in the provided lines that the world is like a stage show. Shakespeare directs the reader’s attention to the drama that everyone goes through throughout their lives. In this speech, Jaques employs a well-known theatrical metaphor of the seven stages of human life. He likens the world to a play or a stage, and all men and women are simply actors or participants on this stage known as the globe.

b. Why are the men and women merely players?

Answer: Through the protagonist Jaques, the poet William Shakespeare claims that all men and women are merely players because he simply means that all human beings are actors who play their given part every day. He is reducing human life to a show or an acting part. By comparing the world to a stage or a play, all of the people entering and exiting this globe by different pathways play different parts or roles. These components are known as the seven stages of men, and they are similar to different acts of a drama or play.

2. Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation

a. Which stage is being described in these lines?

Answer: The poet is referring to the fourth stage of life, which is compared to the lifestyle and role of a soldier in the given situation. In this section, he compares the attributes of a soldier to the fourth stage of mankind.

He represents a man as a soldier fighting for his country. His beard represents all of the bizarre promises he takes to preserve his country and all of the men and women who live in it. He quarrels, but he also maintains his dignity in order to build and expand his reputation in the eyes of others around him. This is possibly the most difficult stage of his life.

b. What is meant by ‘bubble reputation’?

Answer: According to William Shakespeare, “bubble reputation” in this context suggests that during the fourth stage of men, which is similar to that of a soldier, he desires a great reputation quickly, without having to work for it. The poet attempts to demonstrate to his audience that a bubble’s reputation is that it is readily burst, i.e., it swiftly vanishes. The poet goes on to explain that at this point in his life, a man may even take foolish risks in the name of honour. Man is strongest in the fourth stage, and he is often eager and capable of proving his manhood.

Answer the following questions in detail.

1. Write a note on the seven ages of a man as proposed by Jaques.

Answer: Through Jaques’ monologue, “All the World’s a Stage” depicts the various phases and stages of man’s life. The first stage of life is that of a sobbing and puking infant in the arms of a nurse. An infant is defenceless and completely reliant on others. The second stage is childhood, which is also the age at which children begin school. The third stage is adolescence when a guy takes on the role of a lover. During this tough time in his life, he feels excitement, passion, disappointment, and anxiety. The fourth stage is adulthood, sometimes known as manhood. Jacques uses the example of an arrogant soldier with a shaggy beard who resembles a furious leopard. He is aggressive, brave, and ambitious, and he is anxious to establish his social standing. He is protective of his reputation and is willing to risk and sacrifice his life on the battlefield. The sixth stage is middle age, which Jaques represents as the portly judge. This is the time of a man’s life when he is more grounded. The sixth stage of life is when a person begins to age. With the passage of time, he became physically weaker and his mind duller. The seventh and final stage depicts man’s final stage on Earth. It brings an end to his presence on Earth and accelerates his approach to death. He loses his rational strength, becomes forgetful and helpless, and thus returns to the infancy stage, heavily reliant on others, which Jacques refers to as ‘second childishness.’

2. Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. 

Who is sighing in these lines and why?

Answer: The provided sentence is an excerpt from William Shakespeare’s poetry “All the World’s a Stage.” Shakespeare is the world’s most famous dramatist. The poem is an excerpt from Shakespeare’s play “A You Like It.” The lines are said in connection with the third stage of life, which is characterised by the poet as the lover. He has reached his late adolescence, and his primary interest is in girls. He is inclined to embarrass himself by sighing, being sentimental, and composing poems for his ideal girl. Despite his frustration, he seeks joy in his misfortune.

Shakespeare describes a lover sighing like a furnace, which could be due to a craving for his heart’s desire for his partner. There is a hint of longing for a loved one here, as though the lover can’t wait to see her again and spend time with her. The sigh is directed at his “mistress’ eyebrow.” This indicates that he is attempting to capture her attention and that his sweetheart is of exceptional beauty, with her eyes and brow features possibly being her most attractive attributes.

3. Describe in detail the figure of the justice and contrast it with the stage that follows. What are the changes that take place from one to the next?

Answer: The poem “All the World’s a Stage”, is a literary quest to discover the deep philosophical fact that deeply informs a man’s mortal bearing have been predetermined by the universal creator by means of seven clean divisions or ‘Acts’ that define our worldly duration.

The first sentence establishes the poem’s governing structure, with the primary premise that the world is merely a stage into which all men and women enter when they are born and exist when they die. In the first stage, a man is a sobbing puking infant entrusted to the care of a nurse because he is unable to care for himself. From this stage, he develops into a whimpering schoolboy, clinging to his satchel and refusing to go to school, moving at snail’s speed. Then he enters adolescence, when he dutifully performs the role of an ardent lover, sighing in love as if he were a furnace.

A man then matures to shed light on the energetic and combative stage of life in which the young lover turns into a short-tempered soldier who devotes his life to pursuing the bubble. In the next stage, he matures into a middle-aged adult who has settled into the professional function of a high-ranking judge, transitioning from a quick-tempered demeanour to settled midlife with a fair round belly, an allusion to money and prosperity. His eyes are no longer brimming with motivation and passion, but have instead turned harsh as he has learned the ways of the world. In the elderly stage of life, as an old man who needs spectacles to help his vision, which has become impaired with age. Shakespeare has portrayed how age destroys the fire of youth and the grandeur amassed during adult life on this stage. 

Then comes the final part, in which he is dying. The poet has compared this seventh age to the first, referring to it as a “second childishness,” in which the poet becomes crippled as a newborn, losing his teeth, vision, and pretty much everything, as he once was in his nurse’s arm.

Think and discuss.

1. The poem suggests that life is preordained and transient and all men pass through seven phases. Discuss how it aims to provide a moral lesson to the reader.

Answer: “All the World’s a Stage” appears to be a commentary on the different qualities, attributes, and roles that distinguish each stage of a man’s life. The poet has shown a man’s life as a theatre script, with all of the ups and downs that we take so seriously depicted as pre-determined pieces of a cosmic script. We begin to understand that we have the option to be reluctant when forced to play the traditional role of a school-going pupil at first; however, as we grow older, the world manipulates us with strange promises and oaths, to the point where we become wise in the worldly sense of the term, completely consumed by the ways of the materialistic objective-driven world. Finally, we return to our dependent state as an infant with no sense, awaiting oblivion. The outlining of our lives in seven sentences also raises the question of the meaning of life while emphasising the futility of our planned efforts because, no matter what we do or how we do it, we are all supposed to return to the beginning of our cycle existence of life and death.

2. The poem is critical of all stages of a man’s life, from the whining baby to the oblivious old man. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Elucidate with examples.

Answer: Yes, we agree that the poem is critical of men at all stages of their lives, from the whining newborn to the thoughtless old man. By evaluating the poem across the seven ages of man, we discover the treasures that seven phrases can carry, offering us across time and ages.

While this poetry, for the most part, is an over-generalization, upsetting some of our fundamental cores by talking about life in a basic straightforward manner, the concerns posed by the poem are well worth an academic conversation. The poet’s description of a man growing from infancy in the arms of a nurse to an old man dying in the arms of a nurse again depicts a man’s entire life cycle. The poem’s seven phases obviously reflect on us, mortal men, as it represents us on a journey from one stage to the next, increasing in wisdom and experiences, filled with periods of happiness and delight as well as disappointments and sorrows.

Additional/extra questions and answers/solutions

1. In “All the World’s a Stage” what is the world compared to?

Answer: In the poem, the poet compares the world to a stage or a theatre.

2. What is the first stage of a man’s life?

Answer: The first stage of a human’s life is that of an infant who is completely reliant on his mother or nurse.

3. Describe Shakespeare’s depiction of the second stage of life.

Answer: The second stage is a sobbing schoolboy who hangs his bag over his shoulder and walks slowly to school like a snail. He feels apprehensive about going to school.

4. What do the terms ‘exits’ and ‘entrances’ mean?

Answer: The terms “exits” and “entrances” relate to birth and death, respectively.

5. How does a man play the role of a lover?

Answer: The lover is preoccupied with writing ballads for his beloved and longs for her attention.

6. When or how does a man become a judge?

Answer: As a man ages, he develops the maturity and wisdom to serve as a judge.

7. What is the poet’s reason for comparing the schoolboy to a snail?

Answer: The poet compares the schoolboy to a snail since snails move at a leisurely pace. Because the schoolboy does not want to go to school, he moves slowly like a snail.

8. How does a soldier perform on the world stage?

Answer: The soldier swears bizarre oaths. On the subject of honour, he is quite sensitive. In a fight, he is swift and hasty. He is constantly willing to give his life at the mouth of the cannon in order to earn short-lived renown.

9. How does the judge play his part on the world stage?

Answer: A judge is a well-fed, well-dressed individual. His stomach is bulging and he has serious eyes and a well-shaped beard. He succeeds in his role by employing smart maxims and other examples.

10. Why does the poet refer to man’s final stage as “second childishness and mere oblivion?”

Answer: The poet refers to man’s final stage as “second childishness and mere oblivion” since the person becomes old and forgetful during this time. He loses all of his senses and other abilities. He behaves and acts like a child in his moods and hobbies. It is the age of childish oblivion.

11. Why, according to the poet, reputation is a bubble?

Answer: Reputation is similar to a bubble in that it is very delicate and can burst at any time, implying that reputation is uncertain and constantly changes depending on situations and circumstances. It is as fleeting as a bubble.

13. What is the most noticeable difference between the fifth and sixth stages of life?

Answer: The primary distinction is that in the fifth stage of human development, man becomes a judge. He’s as plump as a chicken, with flesh bursting from his waist. His beard is styled in a proper manner. He is full of smart words and modern-day examples. He is a frail, thin old man in the sixth stage. He looks odd in his baggy clothes. His strong voice had morphed into a treble voice.

14. What is the central ideas of the poem All the World’s a Stage.

Answer: The poem’s theme or core idea is the circle of life. The poet refers to the world as “a stage” where everyone has a specific part to play. Everyone’s birth is their entry, and their death is their exit. The poet has divided life into seven stages, each with its own unique set of qualities and characteristics. It describes how one begins as a child, helpless and without comprehension, and ends the same way, unaware of what is happening to him or her. It is a really well-informed poem about life and its stages.

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