What’s with all the Shakespeare?
A little over a month ago I noted that I planned to review some literary classics and derive some investment lessons from them. But I’ve been lingering over Shakespeare for a while now. Lingering is probably the wrong word. I’ve been stuck on Shakespeare, unwilling to move on. Why?
Part if it is the sheer immensity of his work. Shakespeare’s plays are so diverse and cover so much ground that they provide commentary on an almost limitless number of conditions. He speaks directly to leadership, politics, military strategy, social customs, sex, friendship, rivalry, loyalty, betrayal—the list goes on and on. Investors have to understand so many different things; an author who has gone before is supremely helpful.
Part of it is the energy Shakespeare puts into his writing. Just listening to the language—the rhythm, the word-play—you can tell that there’s nothing half-hearted here. And it consumed him. He wrote 38 plays in 24 years, and three years after his last work he was dead, at age 52. It’s as if the “muse of fire” that he invokes at the start of Henry V consumed him from within. And investing requires energy. Borrowing some from the Bard is sensible.
And our world is filled with Shakespearean tropes and quips and saws and sayings. He invented the soliloquizing, self-aware hero. Since successful investors must be self-aware—understanding their own needs and limitations, requirements and restrictions—Shakespeare seems an ideal way to achieve this.
Finally, Shakespeare is fun. You can find a quote for anything, and there’s always wisdom in the quotes. Even his villains dispense wisdom, seemingly against their will. Classical investing is the process of using great works of literature to illustrate truths investors need to understand. The works of Shakespeare provide a royal road to this understanding.
Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA
Chief Investment Officer
Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all!