Sunday, January 16, 2011

Shakespeare on stuff

With this there grows
In my most ill-composed affection such
A stanchless avarice that, were I king,
I should cut off the nobles for their lands,
Desire his jewels and this other's house:
And my more-having would be as a sauce
To make me hunger more; that I should forge
Quarrels unjust against the good and loyal,
Destroying them for wealth.

(Macbeth, Act IV, Scene iii, Lines 76-84, emphasis mine)

In the excerpt above, Malcolm, the son of the traitorously slain King Duncan and rightful heir to the throne, is describing what his reign would be like should he ascend to the throne. He is not speaking honestly. He is testing Macduff to be sure that Macduff is trustworthy and a true friend.

When the class I teach studied this act of Shakespeare's famous tragedy, these lines jumped out at me. Shakespeare has shown great insight to the nature of wealth accumulation; the things of this world do not satisfy. The "more-having" would not sate the desire for things, rather, it would, as Malcolm puts it, "make me hunger more."

An interesting reminder from the Bard of the fleetingness of possessions. There is only one truly satisfying thing: God!

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