Seven Ages of Man is from the romantic comedy “As You Like It”, written by William Shakespeare. It is set in the forest of Arden, where the senior Duke lives in exile with a band of loyal courtiers. These lines are spoken by one of the characters, Jaques, who is given a lot of philosophizing.
Through a series of deft strokes, he etches a realistic picture of the different phases of a man’s life. However, his view of the seven ages in the life of man is by no means comprehensive or impartial. Here, Jaques makes a rather conventional comparison between the different stages of a man’s life and the acts of a play.
According to Jaques, the whole world is a stage where man enacts different parts depending on the stages of his life. He progresses by tracing the first stage of man’s life – infancy and childhood, wherein the child registers his protest against the various disciplining forces of life.
The schoolboy goes to school very reluctantly. According to Jaques, the next phase is one rash and reckless youth, depicted through the figure of the dejected lover and the intrepid soldier. The lover sighs as loudly as the noise made by a powerful furnace. He follows the traditional way of wooing his lover by writing a poem to describe his lover’s beauty.
The soldier typifies youth and is prepared to die for his reputation. This is followed by a phase of complacence and hypocritical wisdom in the middle years as seen in the personality of the rich and well-fed justice.
Jaques prefers to focus on the negative side of old age as seen in the case of the Pantaloon. This aging man has shrunk physically as well as mentally. The clothes he had worn in his youth, now do not fit his shrunken body. His voice is no longer manly. It is squeaky and childish He slides pathetically towards the last stage of senility and oblivion, helpless as an infant. He has lost all his faculties.