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08_THE SEVEN AGES class 9

 

Introduction

  • Shakespeare was an inspired poet, habitually building a world of the imagination.
  • The Seven Ages is actually one of the many speeches of a melancholy character Jaques, in Shakespeare’s play As You Like It.
  • It presents a cynical view of life that is held by a person who looks only at the dark side of things.
  • The idea that a man’s life consists of seven ages was an everyday saying in Shakespeare’s time.
  • In this poem, Shakespeare has divided human life into seven stages with each stage having its own qualities and characteristics.
  • Shakespeare elaborates the view by comparing the world to a stage on which human beings play the drama of life.
  • Shakespeare considers men and women actors on the stage of life.
  • The poem depicts seven roles on the stage depending upon their age.
  • A person plays many roles in a single lifetime.
  • In the beginning, he is a mewling (crying) infant in the nurse’s arm.
  • He cries and vomits most of the time.
  • The infant grows into a bright-faced, complaining schoolboy, unwilling to go to school.
  • In the third stage, the boy is seen as a lover, sighing and singing sad songs.
  • He is lost in thoughts of his beloved and writes poetry on her beauty.
  • After this stage he is seen as a swearing soldier, jealous of his honour, willing to die for its sake.
  • In this stage he is aggressive, short-tempered and ambitious.
  • With age comes maturity and wisdom, and the family man has the vocation of a judge.
  • He is fat, bearded, fierce-eyed and full of wise maxims.
  • He advises people and his look is serious and authoritative.
  • The man grows older and weak.
  • His next role shows him as having grown into a bespectacled gentleman, wearing loosely-fitting stockings on his lean legs.
  • His voice tends to shrill like that of a boy.
  • Lastly, the senile old man loses his teeth, his vision and his hearing.
  • This is the last stage.
  • He loses his memory, sense of taste, etc.
  • After this stage, man makes his exit from the stage of life.

 

LITERARY DEVICES USED IN THE POEM

  1. Simile

(a)      Creeping like snail

(b)      Sighing like furnace

(c)      Bearded like the pard

  1. Metaphor

(a)      bubble reputation

  1. Alliteration

(a)      a world too wide

(b)      For his shrunk shank

 

 

Questions & Answers

 

Q.1    In what sense are men and women merely players on the stage of   life?

Ans.   Men and women on earth are merely players in the drama of life. At birth, they enter the stage and on their death, they leave it. They play seven roles on the stage depending upon their age. Man passes through seven stages in his life. Each age has certain special characteristics that man follows. Thus, he plays the part assigned to him.

 

Q.2    What is the theme of The Seven Ages by William Shakespeare?

Ans.   The poem deals with the theme of growing up and growing old. The poet talks a lot about the changes that a body and mind go through as a man grows old. He talks about changing priorities, from the child being concerned about lessons and then love and finally money and security. At another level, the poem talks about the inevitability of change. Man constantly changes and death is inevitable- Shakespeare mentions “mere oblivion” in the ending lines, giving some sort of finality to his ideas, showing that one can live his life, but everyone has to die.

 

Q.3    Bring out the analogy (comparison) between the world and the stage.

Ans.   Men and women on earth are merely players in the drama of life. Just as there are various ‘acts’ or parts in the play, life has various stages, too. The entrance in a ‘role’ is comparable to birth and exit is similar to death. At every stage, like the acts of a play, man’s character changes. Thus the comparison between life and drama, between the world and stage is total and absolute.

 

Q.4    Explain : “Made to his mistress’ eyebrow”.

Ans.   The expression refers to the song composed by the lover, in praise of his beloved’s eyebrow. To a love-lorn lover, even as insignificant a thing as the eyebrow of his beloved is a worthy subject for writing a song in her praise.

 

Q.5    Explain

“Seeking the bubble reputation

          Even in the cannon’s mouth”.

Or

Describe the fourth stage briefly as described by Shakespeare in the        poem The Seven Ages.

Ans.   In the fourth stage of life man plays the role of a soldier. Full of strange solemn promises and bearded like the pard, in this stage he is aggressive, short-tempered, zealous, daring and adventurous. He is ready to do anything to save his honour and earn bubble-like reputation even by laying down his life.

 

Q.6    Why has reputation been described as ‘bubble’? What is ironical about a soldier dying for it?

Ans.   Reputation has been described as ‘bubble’ because it is transitory (short-lived) by nature. The irony is that the solider does not survive to enjoy the reputation he has defended.

Q.7    Give the meaning of “good capon lined”.

Ans.   The middle aged judge has a well-rounded belly which is lined with chicken. There is an indirect reference to the corrupt practices that he indulges in. He accepts bribes and feeds himself lavishly.

 

Q.8    Bring out a contrast between a judge and a soldier. 

Ans.   The soldier has a clumsy looking appearance as he wears a pard-like beard. Very sensitive about his reputation, this aggressive, short-tempered young man doesn’t mind laying his life to save his honour. The judge, on the other hand supporting a beard of a formal cut, goes about quoting wise sayings. This well-fed gentleman with a round belly faces the world with a stern expression on his face.

 

Q.9    Describe the sixth stage of life.

Or

          How does Shakespeare perceive a man in the sixth stage of his life?

Ans.   At this stage of life man’s voice becomes child-like and loose skin hangs in folds from his emaciated (thin and feeble) body. With his calf muscles shrunk with age, the breeches (tight fitting garment for legs) that he used to wear as a youngman seem to be too loose for him now. As he moves about in the slippers with his spectacles slipping on to his nose, he looks quite funny like a pantaloon (on whom people play tricks).

 

Q.10  What is ‘second childishness’? Why has it been called so?

Or

          How is man’s last stage of life second childishness and mere           oblivion?

Ans.   The last stage of extreme old age has been called second childishness. It has been called so because man loses control over his senses and becomes as dependent on other as he was when he was a child. Moreover, just as a child is oblivious of everything around him, an old man also dwells in ‘mere oblivion’ and his memory starts failing.

 

Q.11  What are the similarities between the last stage i.e. of senility (old age) and first stage i.e. of infancy?

Ans.   Just as man in his infancy is absolutely helpless and totally dependent, man in the last stage of senility, too becomes totally dependent on others. Weak and feeble, with all his senses failing, he is not able to do anything himself. Toothless like an infant his voice too becomes child like. It is at this stage of life that he stands at the threshold of death.

 

Q.12  Compare the parallelism to the journey of life in the poem “The Brook” with “The Seven Ages of Man”?

Ans.   The poem deals with the theme of growing up and growing old. The poet talks a lot about the changes that the body and the mind go through as a man grows old. He talks about changing priorities, from the child being concerned about lessons and then love, finally money and security. At another level, the poem talks about the inevitability of change. Man constantly changes and death is inevitable – Shakespeare mentions “mere oblivion” in the ending lines, giving some sort of finality to his ideas, showing that one can live his life, but everyone has to die.

          Similarly in “The Brook”, the poet compares the brook’s journey with man’s journey of life. Like the brook, man is energetic, lively and moves swiftly when he is young but slow down later on in life just like the brook does before it empties into the river.

 

WORKSHEET

Short Answer Questions

 

  1. How is life comparable to drama, according to Shakespeare?

 

  1. How does Shakespeare describe the stage of infancy in his poem “The Seven Ages”?

 

  1. How do we know that the schoolboy in the poem “The Seven Ages” dislikes school?

 

  1. Briefly describe in your own words a lover’s life as depicted in the poem.

 

  1. Why is the soldier willing to die?

 

  1. Which stage in the poem “The Seven Ages” has been associated with wisdom and corrupt practices at the same time?

 

  1. How do last two stages of life overlap with each other in reality?

 

  1. Why has life been called ‘an eventful history’?

 

  1. Why does the poet call the last stage ‘second childhood’?

 

  1. Explain the following in your own words:
  • ‘his acts being seven ages’         •                  ‘shrunk shank’
  • ‘and shining morning face’      •           ‘childish treble’
  • ‘sighing like a furnace’
  • ‘second childishness and mere oblivion’
  • ‘jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel’
  • ‘sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything’
  • ‘seeking the bubble reputation’

 

Long Answer questions

 

  1. All the world’s a stage

            And all the men and women merely players:

According to Shakespeare, men and women are only players in the drama of the world. Then how should one lead one’s life?

 

  1. Then a soldier.

            Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard, Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel, Seekingthe bubble reputation.”

On the basis of your understanding of the extract, analyse the following:

–        what values does a soldier fight for?

–        whether war is necessary for peace ?

 

If you were the soldier, what would you like to save – your own life or your country’s honour? Give reasons in support of your views.

 

  1. Last scene of all,

            That ends this strange eventful history,

            Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

            Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

 

These lines bring out the misery of the last stage of human life. How should one care for the old people in this stage? What values should be practised by us for their care?

 

  1. Do you think soldiers are harbingers and defendants of peace or enemies of peace? Support your views with reasons and examples.

 

  1. After reading the poem “The Seven Ages”, write an article for your school magazine describing your response to the poem.

In your article you could

  • agree/disagree with Shakespeare’s view of human life
  • give reasons for your position
  • describe how some of the ‘stages’ described have changed/remained the same in modern times

 

  1. Do you think Shakespeare takes a rather pessimistic view of life in the poem “The Seven Ages?” Give reasons in support of your view.

 

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