All the world's a stage

By: William Shakespeare (Justin Reid, 4th period, 3-10-15)

Literal meaning

Shakespeare is iterating to the reader that although you may feel special now, in the grand scheme of things, you are only one out of billions to walk this planet. How ever many twists and turns you feel your life has endured, it follows the same basic (seven step) pattern: infant, school-boy, lover, soldier, modern man, middle-aged man, old man. All people, if fortunate to live that long, will experience this cycle, the cycle of life. Shakespeare puts it best when he says, "They have their exits and their entrances" (Shakespeare 2), because he relates the on goings and off goings of a play to real life. In reality, the world is your entire life, while you are only the tiniest fraction of the world's life.


This poem is definitely a narrative poem, telling the story of life. Although Shakespeare wrote the poem, the speaker is definitely a fictional "persona". Many events take place in a person's lifetime, but Shakespeare broke it up into seven basic stages. The first stage is the infant stage, messy and totally dependent on someone else. The second stage is the annoying school-boy stage, a kid who only thinks about himself.The third stage is the lover stage, most likely directed at confused teenagers. The fourth stage is the soldier stage, referring to those who are fighting to get a hold of their life and find a living. The fifth stage is talking about the businessman, trying to build his reputation and share his experiences. The next stage is talking about those who grow old, wishing to be a kid again. The final stage refers to the elderly who have seen everything, are oblivious, and are physically deteriorated, without teeth and taste (Shakespeare 28). These people, like infants, are again helpless. The speaker seems comfortable when talking about life, but serious when mentioning the briefness it holds. One central idea that stuck with me throughout the poem was to enjoy life today, because you are never promised tomorrow.


This free verse poem is 28 lines and relatively simple. It is in a sort of casual form to remind the reader that while life can be broken down into simple steps, it can also be made difficult due to poor life decisions. There are also events that happen within each "phase", which prolongs one's life. The poem has a fluid development, utilizing the chronological process (seven stages of line, beginning young and ending old). The poem kind of circles back to where it started in saying that people are merely a speck of the earth's life, kind of emphasizing humbleness. There are seven sentences in this poem, but numerous semicolons, which lengthen each thought. The sentences are in the normal "noun, verb" order, but there are a few aspects of Old English incorporated into the poem, which makes it a bit hard to understand. For example, Shakespeare ends the poem writing, "Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything" (Shakespeare 28). Sans is just another word for without, but it would be hard to know that if you were not familiar with his lingual preferences. There are a few periods in the middle of line, meant for the reader to gather his thoughts or think about previous ones. The title "All the world's a stage" relates to the poem in that humans participate in their seven "acts" of life on it. The title is also the first line in the poem so it really sets the stage of the entire thing.


The word choice is colloquial for the most part, with some unusual/middle-aged words within the poem. For example, I did not know some words like pard (Shakespeare 12) and sans (Shakespeare 28). Attitudes such as humbleness, briefness, excitement, and helplessness are commonly seen throughout this poem. There is a ton of figurative language throughout the poem. The whole poem is an extended metaphor comparing one's life and its events to an actor's performance on stage. This is a unique way to put it, really connecting people in the world, emphasizing how people "perform" or live for other people to see and experience. There are similes such as "creeping like snail" (Shakespeare 8) and "Sighing like furnace" (Shakespeare 10). . There are also metaphors such as "the cannon's mouth" (Shakespeare 15). Each aspect of figurative language further develops one of the seven stages the speaker is talking about and gives the reader a fun interpretation of the events.

Musical devices

There is really no rhyme scheme to this poem at all. The poem does flow, but does not have a set rhythm or meter. There is repetition when the speaker repeats the words "sans", reiterating how helpless humans get when they reach old age (Shakespeare 28). This creates alliteration, with the speaker saying "s-" over and over. The poem has created an overall change in attitude for me. It has really opened my eyes and made me appreciate my life, because, unfortunately, not many people have the opportunity to fully complete all seven stages of life. This poem makes the reader realize that life is one big circle, with humans starting helpless (infant) and ending helpless in the form of old age. The somber and casual elements of poetry have created a "matter-of-fact" mood for me. They have made me appreciate every second of my time, and taught me to enjoy what I am doing, who I am with, and what I plan to accomplish in life.

Works Cited

1. Rooney, Kathleen. "Speech: “All the World’s a Stage”." Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 08 Mar. 2015.