The Plays of Shakespeare: A Thematic Guide

By Victor L. Cahn | Go to book overview

Money

Like all of us, Shakespeare’s characters are vulnerable to temptation, which, as in life, may lead to corruption. One of the most powerful enticements is money, which can become the object of such fixation that it overwhelms the rest of a person’s character. True, as Shakespeare dramatizes this preoccupation, it is not always strong enough to take exclusive hold of someone, but several of Shakespeare’s plays remind us that the desire for money, like the desire for power, has the capacity to contaminate an individual or a society.

The lighter side of greed is apparent in some of Shakespeare’s comedies. In The Taming of the Shrew, Baptista clarifies to several young men of Padua how he will reward the successful suitor of his younger daughter, Bianca: “I will be very kind, and liberal” (I, i, 98). He regards her as a commodity, as he later clarifies:


’Tis deeds must win the prize, and he of both

That can assure my daughter’s greatest dower

Shall have my Bianca’s love.

(II, i, 342–344)

The shallow suitor Gremio, along with the servant Tranio, who is disguised as his master, Lucentio, another suitor, follows this directive by boasting of his own wealth; not surprisingly, Baptista concedes to the more promising claims of Tranio. Even then, however, Baptista adds a stipulation:


I must confess your offer is the best,

And let your father make her the assurance,

She is your own, else you must pardon me;

If you should die before him, where’s her dower?

(II, i, 386–389)

-229-

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The Plays of Shakespeare: A Thematic Guide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Introduction xi
  • Acting 1
  • Appearance versus Reality 9
  • Clerics 23
  • Commoners 35
  • Cynicism 45
  • Divine Right 53
  • Fate 63
  • Fathers and Daughters 71
  • Fidelity 81
  • Fools 89
  • Forgiveness 99
  • Gender 107
  • Generations 117
  • Honor 127
  • Innocence 135
  • Intoxication 143
  • Justice 151
  • Language 161
  • Love and Romance 171
  • Machiavels 187
  • Madness 199
  • Male Friendship 211
  • Marriage 219
  • Money 229
  • Mortality 237
  • Nationalistic Pride and Prejudice 245
  • Nature 255
  • Order 263
  • Politics 273
  • Power 285
  • Reason versus Passion 295
  • Revenge 305
  • Supernatural Phenomena 315
  • The Tragic Flaw 325
  • War 335
  • Conclusion 345
  • Further Reading 347
  • Index 349
  • About the Author 362
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