5 valuable financial lessons Shakespeare’s plays can teach us

When you consider he’s one of the best-known bards in the world, you won’t be surprised to learn that 23 April is National Shakespeare Day. The event celebrates Shakespeare’s work in several ways, and if you’re taking part, you may be doing this by watching one of his plays or even deciding to speak like one of his characters for the day!

What you may not realise though, is that Shakespeare offers some insightful tips about money and finances in his plays. So, to mark the day, read on to discover five lessons the bard’s plays can teach you about being more savvy with your money.

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

The line is taken from one of Shakespeare’s best known pieces of work, Hamlet, in which Polonius gives his son Laertes advice on managing his money.

He starts off by telling him never to lend or borrow money from friends, as it often results in the loss of the money and the friend. Later, Polonius points out that constantly borrowing money encourages bad spending habits and irresponsibility.

2. “He that wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends”

This quote comes from Shakespeare’s As You Like It, when the poor but good-natured shepherd Corin is explaining that happiness is just as important as employment. It’s particularly salient in today’s world, when assets and wealth are all too often associated with being “happy”.

Being reminded that money can’t buy happiness is as important today as it was when Shakespeare wrote the line.

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

This line from Henry IV, Part 2 comes from Falstaff as he asks the Lord Chief Justice to lend him money. The response is sharp: “not a penny, not a penny; you are too impatient to bear crosses”.

When you consider the many ways you can borrow money today, it’s a timely reminder that doing so to achieve instant gratification instead of being patient could lead to problems. For example, if you borrow money, you may find yourself facing a financial nightmare if something unexpected happens that means you can’t meet your obligations.

Indeed, this is echoed by Falstaff who admits that borrowing to pay his debts will not deal with the problem.

4. “If thou wilt lend this money… lend it rather to thine enemy, who, if he break, thou mayst with better face exact the penalty”

A twist on the message provided by Polonius in Hamlet. This is provided by Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, in which he is saying it is probably best to lend money to enemies not friends. His reasoning is that if you end up losing the money you will not have lost a friendship, and won’t feel as wretched when you have to take action to recover your losses.

It should be remembered that there may be times when you might want to consider lending money to help a friend or member of the family, especially in today’s uncertain times. That said, you should always be careful, and consider the implications on your financial security if you do not get the money back.

Speaking to a financial planner could help you understand this, and help you decide whether you should lend the money. They could also help you better protect yourself against the money not being paid back.

5. “Think’st thou, Hortensio, though her father be very rich, any man is so very a fool to be married to hell?”

This sage piece of advice is provided by Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew. It’s a variation on the saying “there’s no such thing as a free lunch” but applied to marriage. The words explain that while marrying for money might bring you the lifestyle and riches you desire, the downside is that you will be married to someone you may not love.

This could make for a very unhappy existence, and again raises the question of whether being wealthy at any expense really is worth it. While this relates to relationships, it can be widened out to careers and work/life balance, as it’s easy to forget that being happy is what counts.

If you want to read why putting happiness before money is so important, why not read our blog explaining what a Mexican fisherman can teach you about real wealth.

Get in touch

We hope you enjoyed the financial lessons provided by Britain’s most famous bard. If, on the other hand, you would like to have a more straightforward conversation about your wealth, future financial aspirations, retirement planning or investing, email us at hello@ardentuk.com or call 01904 655 330.

As award-winning specialists in financial planning, we work with you to create a financial strategy that helps you meet your long-term goals and provides peace of mind.

Please note

This article is for information only. Please do not act based on anything you might read in this article. All contents are based on our understanding of HMRC legislation, which is subject to change.

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