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On the 400th anniversary of his death, what can William Shakespeare teach us about money?

What Shakespeare teaches us about money?

How many times have you used the phrase ‘mum’s the word’? How about ‘eaten out of house and home’, ‘for goodness sake’, ‘neither here nor there’? These are just a few of the everyday expressions which came from the pen (or quill) of the Bard himself, William Shakespeare. So on the 400th anniversary of his death, what can Bill teach us about money?

“I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse: borrowing only lingers and lingers it out, but the disease is incurable” Henry IV, Part 2

Who would have thought it, Shakespeare gives out debt advice in his plays! Falstaff asks to borrow money from the Lord Chief Justice, a request that’s met with the rather blunt reply of “Not a penny, not a penny; you are too impatient to bear crosses”.

Falstaff admits he’s no good at managing money and moans about how borrowing to pay his debts will never get rid of the problem. You can see similarities to today's world where we have so many ways of borrowing and getting into debt, including pay-day lenders.

“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; for loan doth oft lose both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.”  Hamlet

Bill’s on the money with his debt advice again! In this line from Hamlet, Polonius gives his son Laertes advice on managing money.

He starts off by telling him never to lend or borrow money from friends. You will often end up losing the money and the friend in doing so. Polonius goes on to make a wonderful point about how constantly borrowing money encourages bad spending habits.

“Put money in thy purse” Othello

OK, we’re cheating a little bit with this one. Iago says this many times as he tries to con money out of Roderigo.

With so many people not having much savings, maybe it is time we use this phrase differently - to remind ourselves to put some money away for a rainy day. 

“He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends.” As You Like It

In the modern, material world, money is important to all of us, but in this passage from As You Like It, the poor, good natured shepherd Corin tells us employment and happiness are just as important.

Even though Corin says this jokingly to a court jester, you could read this as Shakespeare telling us that money can’t buy us happiness.

“Pound of flesh” The Merchant of Venice

There is no way we could do a list of Shakespeare quotes about money and not include this (admittedly paraphrased) line from The Merchant of Venice. The play is a morality tale about money and greed, and features to infamous money lender Shylock.

The pound of flesh is the price Shylock asks Antonio to pay for guaranteeing Bassanio’s loan. You have to admit, it’s a bit steeper than the usual APR. Another poetic line from this play is “All that glitters is not gold, often have you heard that told”. Put another way, if it seems too good to be true it probably is. A warning, perhaps, of not falling for money making scams.

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