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THE SEVEN AGES OF MAN

by: William Shakespeare

 Baby or infant.
 School boy or child.
 Lover or Teenager
 Soldier or Youth
 Justice or judge or Middle age
 Old man.
 Extreme old age, again like a child.

Stage 1: Infancy

Birth marks the entry of man in the first stage of life. An infant in the caretaker's arms is just
a helpless child learning to survive. Babies communicate with us through their cries. Having
been nourished in the womb of the mother, the baby learns to accept breast milk as its first
food. Vomiting is common among all babies. Once a baby is breastfed, you need to burp the
baby. In the process, babies throw up some milk. Since babies do nothing most of the day,
other than crying and spitting up after feeding, Shakespeare says that the first stage of life is
marked by these two activities.

Babies have been perceived as cute since the beginning of time. They feed and spit up, and
between these two activities, they also cry.

A lot young parents know the drill even before they become parents. While babies continue
to be puking and mewling little adorable beings, the difference between then and now is
that raising babies is a concerted effort between the parents.

Stage 2: Schoolboy

At this stage of life, the child is introduced to the world of discipline, order, and routine.

The carefree days of infancy are over, and schooling brings about a regimen in the life of a
child. Naturally, the child takes to whining and complaining about the forced routine.

The concept of schooling has seen a great change since the time of Shakespeare. In
Shakespeare's time, school was a forced practice usually overseen by the church. Depending
on the status of the parents, a child went to either a grammar school or a monastic school.
School began at sunrise and lasted the whole day. Punishments were common, and often
harsh.

Modern schools are quite unlike their ancient counterparts. While some kids still whine and
complain about going to school, many actually love school because of the "play while you
learn" approach to schooling. Modern day schools have taken a holistic approach towards
education. Children are taught through role plays, visual presentations, demonstrations, and
games. Homeschooling is another option that most parents prefer to formal schooling. Also,
with the abundance of online resources, modern education has extended the boundaries of
learning.

Stage 3: Teenager

Teenagers in the medieval times were accustomed to social etiquettes of wooing a lady. The
teenager during Shakespeare's time pined for his lover, wrote elaborate verses of love
ballads, and mooned over his object of desire.

"Romeo and Juliet" is an icon of romance during the period of Shakespeare's. Love was
sensual, deep, romantic, and full of grace and beauty.

Compare this love to the teen love of today. The modern age teen is technically savvy, well-
informed, and romantically astute. They don't express their love in amorous love letters.
Who does that in the age of texting and social media? Relationships are not as elaborate or
romantic as they were for the medieval teenager. The youth of today is far more individual-
centric and independent than those in Shakespeare's time. Back in those days, relationships
were nurtured towards matrimony. Nowadays, marriage is not necessarily the goal of every
romantic affiliation, there is more sexual expression and fewer adherences to social
structures such as monogamy.

However, despite all these differences, the teenager of today is as angsts as the teenager of
the medieval time.

They have to deal with unrequited love, heartbreak, and depression just as those in the
ancient times.

Stage 4: Youth

The next stage Shakespeare talks about in the poem is that of a young soldier. In old
England, young men were trained for combat. The young soldier developed an attitude of
brash courage, raw passion mixed with the impetuous temper that is characterized by
unwarranted rebellion.

The youth of today have the same zeal and energy for rebellion. They are far more
expressive, vocal, and assertive about their rights. Though the youth of today would not
necessarily be enlisted for service in the army, they have enough avenues to form social
groups to fight for a political or social cause. With social media platforms and global reach of
mass media, the young can reach their voice to the far corners of the world. A widespread
reaction is almost instantaneous because of the global reach and effectiveness
of propaganda.
Stage 5: Middle Age

The middle age has hardly changed over the centuries. Middle age is the time when men and
women settle down, and kids, family, and career take precedence over personal indulgences.
Age brings wisdom and a sense of peaceful acceptance of realities of life. Idealistic values get
pushed behind, while practical considerations become important. While the middle-aged
man (and woman) of today have more options to further personal or professional interests,
perhaps the medieval middle-aged man had fewer such options, and, not surprisingly, even
less so the medieval woman.

Stage 6: Old Age

In the medieval times, life expectancy hovered around 40, and a man of 50 would consider
himself lucky to be alive. Depending on the social or economic class of the person, old age
could be harsh or at best, ambivalent. Though the old were respected for their wisdom and
experience, most old people suffered due to neglect and degeneration of physical and mental
faculties. Those who were oriented towards religious pursuits fared better than the
household man.

Today, life is alive and vibrant for a 40-year-old. Many senior aged people (starting in their
70s) in the modern era are still actively involved in social activities, secondary occupations,
or hobbies. Also, there are good retirement plans and financial devices available to make old
age comfortable. It is not so uncommon for a healthy and young-at-heart senior citizen to go
on a trip around the world, enjoy gardening or golf, or even continue to work or pursue
higher education if they so desire.

Stage 7: Extreme Old Age

What Shakespeare talks about in this stage of man is an extreme form of aging, where the
person is no longer able to perform basic tasks such as bathing, eating, and going to the
toilet. Physical frailty and incapacity no longer allow them the freedom to live unassisted.
During Shakespeare's time, it was quite okay to treat old people as "senile." In fact, in the
Elizabethan era, where slavery and discrimination against women were highly
prevalent, ageism was hardly considered a problem. Old people were treated as "little
children," and as Shakespeare describes this stage as a second childhood, it was socially
acceptable to treat the old with disdain.

Today's modern society is more humane and sensitive towards seniors. Though ageism still
exists and is prevalent in many spheres, with growing awareness, seniors "sans teeth, sans
eyes, and sans taste" still live with the dignity that ought to be afforded to the elderly.

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