Tag Archives: The Seven Ages

Seeking Bubble Reputation

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It was really so nice to discuss  ‘The Seven Ages’ by William Shakespeare with the 9th graders. As a student of grade 9, I had read this poem.

Here, is the complete poem:

The Seven Ages of Man
(By William Shakespeare)

        All the world’s a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players;
        They have their exits and their entrances,
        And one man in his time plays many parts,                      
5      His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
        Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
        And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
        And shining morning face, creeping like snail
        Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, 
10    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
        Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
        Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
        Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
        Seeking the bubble reputation
15    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
        In fair round belly with good capon lined,
        With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
        Full of wise saws and modern instances;
        And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
20    Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
        With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
        His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
        For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
        Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
25    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

I remember, poetry and Literature as a whole has always attracted me. The idea of the abstract fascinated my imagination. The other day, a good friend of mine said that she could never analyse the abstract referring to the poems that we teach in class. But, I have done fairly well in this area. Since early childhood, I had the habit of dwelling deep into the meanings of poems, lyrics of songs, that too the high philosophical ones. For example, the Hindi Film song, “Mein Zindegi ka saath nibhhata chala gaya, har fikr ko dhuye mei urata chala gaya”. Though, we cannot actually ‘throw away our worries like a breeze of air. “Jo milgaya, usiko muqaddar samajj gaya, jo kho gaya mein usko bhulata chala gaya”. Wonderful lines with very deep meaning and of course a lot to learn. These lines actually teach contentment.

Now, contentment is something which usually comes to people at a very later stage of life. But, for people who are high in Philosophy of life, like me, it comes pretty early or let us say, maturity comes much earlier.

Well, let me come back to my original topic, ‘The Seven Ages’ by the great William Shakespeare. I don’t wish to lecture on the greatness of William Shakespeare, as we always do in our English classrooms. I always say to my students that the stature of William Shakespeare is so huge in English Literature that he holds the position of a subject (100 marks paper) in the study of English Literature for earning a Master’s Degree. What I personally admire about him is his great understanding of Human Psyche, Behaviour, Personality etc.

In this poem, ‘The Seven Ages’, the poet presents a huge philosophy, something which can be found in almost all the holy texts of the World. He starts the poem by declaring :

” All the world’s a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players;
        They have their exits and their entrances,…”

He compares the life of a Human Being with a Stage, where everyone play their part. All men and women are mere actors. This point proves that there is a Director, directing this stage of life and assigning roles to these ‘mere players’. And, the funniest part is these ‘mere players’ during their act, start thinking themselves to greater than all or even the creator. They do/talk absolute nonsense, and think that they are not being observed by anyone. But, the truth remains that every action is being observed and recorded for which we all are accountable.

Another point that I wish to discuss here is again inspired from these lines:

       “Then a soldier,
        Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
        Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
        Seeking the bubble reputation….”

Here, by the word ‘soldier’, the poet refers to ‘Adults’. The stage of life, which comes after teenage and before Middle Age. It can range from the age of 20 to 45. How aptly, Shakespeare describes this stage of life!

I absolutely agree with all the points, stated here. I would like to focus upon two characteristics: ‘Jealous in honor, and
                                                       Seeking the bubble reputation….”

As a student of Psychology, I always observe human behaviour, very keenly. I know people, who are so ambitious, opportunistic and competitive. They take everything as a competition. They always want to be the best always. They feel insecure if they find others going ahead of them (Jealous in honor). And, out of this insecurity, they can go to any extent. The funniest thing is that, what they are seeking, with all their hard work, has the status of a bubble (Seeking the bubble reputation). So, finally what they attain with all their efforts doesn’t even last long, it is just a temporary feeling of joy or moment of recognition.

The biggest lesson that life teaches is that everything temporary in life. It is completely futile to run behind something which is not real. They chase a reputation, defeating others on the way and finally achieve the desired goal, which is short-lived and temporary. So, finally what are they gaining by all these efforts is actually nothing. It can be a temporary satisfaction but the negative Karma that they are creating by hurting people is something they need to think about. As Karma doesn’t have a ‘Bubble Reputation’.