Jerry Engstrom
Ms. Fritz
English 11, British Literature
17 January 1997
How Money Killed
Many of our friends at Wall Street have serious heart problems; some of them even die years before they should because of the stress that is brought on by the money and greed of Wall Street. Money is also evident as a health risk in Macbeth and The Merchant of Venice, both written by William Shakespeare. On Wall Street people are driven by the greed of the people they represent, their own greed, and a general atmosphere of greed. In Macbeth, Macbeth is driven by personal ambition and his wife to become king at any expense, including slaying some of his personal friends and their families. Also, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock the Jew is driven by a hatred for Christians and personal greed. In both plays the character with the greed driven personality end up on the short end of the stick.
Macbeth's and Shylock's drive of greed is revealed after just the first few scenes. Macbeth's drive of greed is evident after his encounter with the three witches; after which he tells Banquo that he is eager to learn more about his future as king. Shylock's greed is revealed when we learn that unlike Bassanio, Shylock charges interest on all his loans, and that he is quite ruthless in getting payments for money owed. "Three thousand ducats. 'Tis a good round sum./ Tree months from twelve, then let me see, the /rate--" (1.3.112-114). Upon this Bassanio asks Shylock if he will really owe him any interest; Shylock reacts as almost offended, and further explains that Bassanio will indeed owe him interest. For both Macbeth and Shylock, this is the beginning of the end.
Macbeth's greed starts to become a problem when people start figuring out the truth behind Duncan's death. Macbeth realizes that he is well beyond to point of no return and that the only thing left to do is to keep eliminating people whom may potentially stand in his way, or hurt his political figure such as when Macbeth sends orders to have Macduff's family assassinated because Macduff hurt Macbeth politically by not showing up at the party. "The castle of Macduff I will surprise/Seize upon Fife; give to th' edge o' th' sword/His wife, his babes, and all unfortunate souls/That trace him in his line" (4.2.150-153). Macbeth plots to kill Macduff's wife and child just because he didn't show up at his party where he was being blundersome any way. Shylock's greed goes from being a problem for Antonio to being a problem for himself. As Antonio's ships failed to arrive on time, Shylock wants his part of the agreement fulfilled -- one pound of flesh from Antonio's body is the agreement. Although Antonio pleads for his life, Shylock's greed is persistent and eventually they go to court to settle. The tide turns when Portia shows up disguised as a lawyer. "Of a strange nature is the suit you follow,/Yet in such rule that the Venetian law/Cannot impugn you as you do proceed./To Antonio. You stand within his danger, do you/not?" (4.1.180-184). Through some manipulation of interpretation of the bond, Shylock is forced to give up all that he had worked for in order to not be put on trial for plotting to murder Antonio. It is now evident that greed will eventually triumph any man's heart.
Macbeth's greed kills him in the end. "Hail, King! For so thou art: behold, where/stands/Th' usurper's cursed head. The time is free" (5.8.53-55). Macbeth's life ends as the witches predicted, thus the tragic plot is complete. Shylock the Jew's fortune and purpose in life ends as he looses all he owns to his daughter and her new husband. Both Macbeth and Shylock loose what their greed got them and end up with nothing to show for it.
Greed may be the biggest killer through out time, surpassing perhaps cancer and aids. As both Macbeth and Shylock the Jew found out, gluttony may not be the root to all evil, greed may be. To have ambition and goals is good, one just have to be careful not to let their goals get too far out of reach. Perhaps there should be a column in The Wall Street Journal reminding the employees of the market