Are there any quotations from the era of William Shakespeare that relate to the economic as well as to the themes of money and power in Macbeth?

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booboosmoosh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's Macbeth, Macbeth is much more interested in becoming king (a result of his tragic flaw: vaulting ambition) than in attaining money.

There are several instances were rewards are heaped upon Macbeth and even his wife, but with the titles and jewels, Macbeth is still not satisfied. When he becomes the Thane of Cawdor, it is not just the title he receives, but all that the traitorous Cawdor owned.


No more that Thane of Cawdor shall deceive

Our bosom interest. Go pronounce his present death,

And with his former title greet Macbeth...

...What he hath lost, noble Macbeth hath won. (I.ii.73-76, 78)

In Act One, scene seven, Macbeth has a change of heart: he is having second thoughts about killing Duncan. Besides the lands and title Duncan has bestowed on him, Macbeth has been praised and is highly thought of in the King's court. Macbeth enjoys the feeling, and has no desire to move forward. He speaks not at all about money, but "golden opinions:"


We will proceed no further in this business:

He hath honor'd me of late, and I have bought

Golden opinions from all sorts of people,

Which would be worn now in their newest gloss,

Not cast aside so soon. (34-38)

Soon after, in Act Two, scene one, after the King has retired, we learn from Banquo that Duncan has been very generous with both Macbeth's officers and even Lady Macbeth, giving her a diamond and praising (ironically) her fine hospitality.


He hath been in unusual pleasure and

Sent forth great largess to your offices:

This diamond he greets your wife withal,

By the name of most kind hostess... (15-18)

For all the talk of reward, Macbeth—and even Lady Macbeth—have spoken not about getting money, for Duncan has already been very generous. Both husband and wife looks towards the power that being King and Queen will bring them. Power was a common concern in the 15th Century.

Christopher Marlowe was another dramatist in Elizabethan England. One of the themes of Marlowe's play, Dr. Faustus, is that of "social mobility," or being able to improves one's social standing. For someone born of lowly station, moving socially upward did not only allow one to associate with a better class of people, but also to have more wealth and power. Whereas money was desirable, power was that on which everything else depended.

The drive of the Elizabethan gentry to gain power and wealth is commented on by Marlowe's writing.

In scene five of Dr. Faustus, Faustus wants Mephistophilis's spell book so that he might have all: power, money, etc. Faustus wants more than he has: he wants to be powerful like the servant of Lucifer. While he might benefit from money, power will guarantee Faustus money and more.


Thanks, Mephistophilis: yet fain would I have a

book wherein I might behold all spells and incantations,

that I might raise up spirits when I please.


Here they are, in this book. (174-177)

In light of the fact that Shakespeare's work in many ways overshadows the works of other writers, there seems to be more poetry about love and life than serious dramas that deal with power and money. This was a time of rebirth in the arts, and entertainment was in great demand. Marlowe, Jonson and Kyd were popular writers of the time; Kyd alone was more likely concerned with themes of power and money in The Spanish Tragedy.

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