5 Money Lessons We Can Learn from Shakespeare

5 Money Lessons We Can Learn from Shakespeare

One of the greatest storytellers of all time, William Shakespeare is probably best known for his keen understanding of people and relationships. His iconic tales about human emotions, motivations, and behavior have been told and retold for centuries – and have certainly stood the test of time.


Shakespeare understood mankind's complicated relationship with money. Like his grasp of human interactions, his financial insights ring true more than 400 years after he put down his quill.


Here are five valuable lessons about money from the great Bard of Avon:

1. There are many things in life more valuable than wealth

“All that glisters is not gold, often have you heard that told," the Prince of Morocco reads from a scroll in Act 2, Scene 7 of The Merchant of Venice.

The Prince is a suitor of Portia, a wealthy noblewoman. He and her other suitors must choose which of three boxes—gold, silver, or lead—contains her portrait. The one who selects the box with her portrait will win her hand. The Prince selects the gold box, assuming the portrait would be in the most valuable one. But instead, the box contains a scroll with the "All that glisters..." quote.


The takeaway: Just because something is shiny, it doesn't mean it is valuable. This can apply to objects as well as relationships. Sometimes, what seems a modest exterior will have a priceless interior.


Much like a family home. Maybe the first home someone buys after working hard, saving up, and finally unlocking the door to a place they never thought they'd be able to afford. Tied to this home are loving memories of family and milestones, each day new ones are made. All of that adds value to this home, even if the it's sentimental, not financial.

2. Happiness should not be based on money

“Poor and content is rich, and rich enough," Iago says to Othello in Act 3, Scene 3.


The takeaway: If you're happy with what you have, even if you have little financially, you are rich. Filling your life with people and activities you love can lead to more fulfillment than only focusing on getting rich. While striving for success is good, there is much more to life.


3. Fearing poverty can lead to unhappiness

In the same passage, Iago goes on to say, “But riches fineless is as poor in winter to him that ever fears he shall be poor."


The takeaway: If you fear being poor, it's important to be smart with what you have by budgeting, saving, investing, and spending wisely. However, fear of poverty can cause you to work too much or prevent you from using your money which can prevent you from enjoying life.

4. Don't try to “keep up with the Joneses"

“Good heaven, the souls of all my tribe defend from jealousy!" Iago continued.


The takeaway: Success is relative, and chasing what others have can lead you to neglect what's good and important in your own life. Evoking a strong feeling of family and community with "my tribe" who can help each other stay grounded and protected from losing themselves in the "green-eyed monster" that is jealousy. 

5. Make your money work for you

"Foul cankering rust the hidden treasure frets, but gold that's put to use more gold begets." This line from Shakespeare's narrative poem, Venus and Adonis.


The takeaway: Keeping your money hidden (under your mattress for example) yields no growth, as you use it, your funds dwindle and over time inflation can eat away at it. If you invest your money and take advantage of compounding interest or gains, you will earn from it.


Putting it to use could also mean spending to make more from it, like investing in a business, or real estate and rental properties. Put it to work so that you can increase your wealth and have your gold beget more gold!


Shakespeare's money lessons still resonate today

Money has long been taboo to speak of as it plays a significant role in how we live. Shakespeare did not shy away from the topic and as he looked into human nature and relationships, financial relationships also played a role in how his stories play out. 


Granted, we may have taken some creative licenses to prove points here and there but perhaps the advice that resonates the most today is the importance of knowing how to manage your money. Budgeting, saving, investing, and knowing how to make smart financial choices can be a game-changer when it comes to living your best life.


One last quote from Mr. Shakespeare to sum it all up.

"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves." 




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Written by GoHenry Published Apr 21, 2022 ● 3 min. read