Shakespeare has undoubtedly achieved great renown in the field of literature. His plays, poetry and other literary works are of great help to men of letters of all ages. His song, “The Seven Ages of Man”, shares a great knowledge and philosophy of man. It occurs in Act II, scene VII of ‘As You Wish’, one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies. It is sung by Jacques, one of the noble men who leads a life of exile in the Forest of Arden with a duke who was dethroned and betrayed by his evil brother. Shakespeare has brought so many songs into it, appealing to the problems of humanity and bringing the king to a peaceful level. That is why poetry is greater than philosophy and history. Apart from that, this pastoral song provides wholesome entertainment. Being a psychologist, he studies man in depth and discovers all kinds of peculiarities.
01. Main points:
In this song, he commonly takes man as his subject and divides his life into seven ages. His first age is infantile, a newborn baby in the lap of the mother or the nurse, who cries like a kitten and vomits in the arms of the nurse from overeating. His second stage is a reluctant school boy, complaining about going to school but wanting to waste his time playing games. Being pressurized, it travels to school like a snail. It is the slowest creature. His third stage is a lover. He is a young man, in love with a beautiful girl. Separated from her, he sighs like an oven and composes sad songs, appealing to the beauty and charm of his beloved’s forehead. His fourth stage is a soldier, a loyal servant of his country, takes strange oaths and is jealous in the matter of gaining renown. He’s ready to go to the muzzle for a temporary reputation. His fifth stage is justice, whose belly is full of chickens as a symbol of corruption. It is a collection of wise adages that he uses in his speech to satisfy others. His sixth stage is the old one, he wears glasses and keeps his old things safe. At this stage, your legs shrink and there is a change in your voice. Its seventh stage is infantile. He goes into oblivion and loses his teeth, his eyes, his taste and finally his life.
02. The structure of the song:
The song is written in blank verse, iambic pentameter without rhyme. It consists of ten syllables or five meters. It is widely used by Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare in their plays. In this song, the poet rhymes some verses. In the last line of the song is a regular rhythm of the verse. It has five syllables that are strongly stressed – teeth, eyes, taste, and first and last syllables of all, while in front of these stressed syllables, the five unstressed syllables are placed. Simultaneously, the pause can be found at the end of the lines as well as in the middle of the lines. In so many lines in the passage, a sentence ends in the middle of the line and pauses, in there, before starting the new sentence. Then a few lines move on to the next without a pause. We find sufficient regularity in the pattern of lines and their meters. Such regularity makes readers feel that it is poetry with great freedom what happens in a real speech in a real situation. Also, to enjoy and understand this dramatic verse, it is necessary to read it aloud. Indeed, Shakespeare was a great poetic craftsman, and if his words are spoken with a full sense of their meaning and spirit, everything else will work out.
03. Rhetorical figures:
The poet uses figures of speech with great charm. Its main function is to make the language figurative and decorated. Other than that, it conveys the poet’s main theme clearly and simply. So Shakespeare has used simile, metaphor, alliteration, symbols and rhythm:
(i) Simile: in this rhetorical figure, the poet compares two different objects using words like and like. You have used the simile in three different places. In the second stage, the poet compares a reluctant school boy to a snail. The snail is the slowest creature. So he moves like a snail because he likes to play. That is why he prefers the game to school. In the third stage, the poet compares the lover’s sighs of grief and pain with the sound of the oven. The last simile is used in the fourth scene, where he becomes a soldier and stands as a great loyalist to his country because he takes strange oaths that are still unavoidable anyway. His beard is compared to leopard spots. So his beard is his honor, which is dearer to him than his life.
(ii) Metaphor: it is an implicit simile. It shows a direct comparison of two things. In this song, Shakespeare shows a direct comparison of the world with the stage, where all humanity comes and plays their roles. Also, compare all the men and women to the actors.
(iii) Alliteration: It is the repetition of the same letter at the beginning of the word. In the seven ages of man, we find a good example of alliteration in old age where he speaks of trembling legs. Although his legs shrink but he never avoids doing his hobby.
(iv) Rhythm and symbols: rhythm is the opposite of alliteration. In it, the repetition of the same word is in a line. For example: without teeth, without eyes, without taste and without everything. The repetition of ‘sans’ rhythms is displayed. The symbol is a very interesting figure. The poet uses it to explain more and more something in particular, as readers may not find any difficulties. Shakespeare uses word outs that symbolize death. It means that when his life ends, he passes away. The tickets symbolize birth, when a person comes to this world to play his role. The soldier’s beard is a symbol of bravery.
04. A psychologist:
Shakespeare is a great psychologist. The role of the psychologist is to study the mind of humanity. This song is loaded with such interpretations. She analyzes the psyche of humanity and, according to her, divides her life into seven ages. He describes the real activities of a little boy, a reluctant schoolboy, a lover, a soldier, a judge, an old man, and a child in a true way. Examine and open her psyche fully. It seems that he himself enters all ages and thoroughly examines everything that comes out, he describes it with his dexterity without any hyperbole. So it is your personal experience. They are best interpreted and such abilities are not found in others. They all prove that he is a great psychologist.
05. A humorist:
In humor, Shakespeare is gentle. His way of describing the first five ages makes the audience laugh a lot, but in the remaining two his tone becomes melancholic because he jumps back to the last days of man. He is not bitter when describing them, but he is very courteous to them. When he describes the age of the soldier, he shows a humor that is somewhat harsh. But, in general, his humor is courteous and appreciable. Such a disposition makes him a great humanist and humorist. In fact, he pays great attention to the man and his problem. He promises to find the methods to solve them. You can see the poetic ability of the writer. Whenever the duke is in trouble, he pays attention to it and introduces a song.
‘As You Wish’ is a pastoral comedy by Shakespeare. You have used simple and polite diction and language. His use of phrases, figures of speech, blank verses, and simple language really make his style great, while maintaining an astonishing philosophy about man.