Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Bard and the Optimist

Last night, Possible Flurries and I discussed at least three subjects:
1. Is Shakespeare the greatest person to everl live? (An actual quote from me: "Shakespeare is, without a doubt, the greatest man to ever live, post-Jesus. I speak without hyperbole.")
2. Whether, as Shakespeare suggests, Nature does not give but only lends.
3. Whether Annie saved America from the depression. (An actual quote from Possible Flurries: "I thought it was government spending and the war.")

Consider this post the footnotes to those discussions.

Shakespeare and the Rise of Capitalism
Shakespeare used financial metaphors in some of his sonnets. Look particularly at Sonnet 4:

Unthrifty loveliness, why dost thou spend
Upon thyself thy beauty's legacy?
Nature's bequest gives nothing but doth lend,
And being frank she lends to those are free.
Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse
The bounteous largess given thee to give?
Profitless usurer, why dost thou use
So great a sum of sums, yet canst not live?
For having traffic with thyself alone,
Thou of thyself thy sweet self dost deceive.
Then how, when nature calls thee to be gone,
What acceptable audit canst thou leave?
Thy unused beauty must be tomb'd with thee,
Which, used, lives th' executor to be.

The metaphor and motif of the poem is driven by capitalist concepts and terms.

One line in Sonnet 9 can actually be used as justification of a consumer economy:

Look, what an unthrift in the world doth spend
Shifts but his place, for still the world enjoys it;

Shakespeare, like any great poet, could use whatever was around him as metaphor for idea. And commerce was around him.

Indeed, nature only lends

A common theme in Shakespeare's sonnets is decay and age; all things, all life, all beauty, passes. I take "Nature" to mean the physical world, and can only agree that Nature lends but doesn't give; everything we have we know will be taken away.

Daddy Warbucks is quite obviously a war profiteer.
Annie saved the country from The Great Depression with her eternal optimism and never-dying hope.

She saved the nation by singing "Tomorrow" with FDR. It was just the inspiration the nation needed.


  1. I still disagree about nature only lending. I think the reason we disagree is that you seem to think death severs all connections. I think the memory or the experience of something lasts beyond the thing itself, and that our own personal memories and experiences will remain with our spirits once we die, too.

  2. But I don't think "nature" gives us those things. I associate "nature" with the physical world, and all things from the physical world will be taken away from us, regardless of spiritual reality after death.