Shakespearean take on diversification

Discuss all general (i.e. non-personal) investing questions and issues, investing news, and theory.

Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby rex » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:12 am

I was dazed this weekend after being heads down on design work for the whole of last week - so decided to read some old plays. I pulled out of of my favorites - "Merchant of Venice" - and as i was reading through , one of the opening paragraphs really struct me - the last time i read this was years ago (before i knew what a Roth IRA was).

It goes something like this ... In a street of Venice, the merchant Antonio laments that he is sad but knows not why. One of his friends suggests that maybe he is worried about his ventures at the sea. Antonio's reply is what struct me (now that i know a little about AA and diversification):

"My ventures are not in one bottom trusted,
Nor to one place; nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year:
Therefore my merchandise makes me not sad.
"

So really - I'm not sure why a lot of people don't get it - this is not really a new concept - nor is it specific to the stocks/bond market !

-Rex.
rex
 
Posts: 53
Joined: Sun Nov 04, 2012 4:58 am

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby G-Money » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:10 am

Ecclesiastes 11:2 wrote:Give a portion to seven, and also to eight: for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth.
Don't assume I know what I'm talking about.
User avatar
G-Money
 
Posts: 2820
Joined: Sun Dec 09, 2007 8:12 am

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Clive » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:40 am

[diversification] not really a new concept

Ancient Talmud text/scripture http://www.yutorah.org/daf.cfm/6024/Bava%20Metzia/42/a

Image

Translation : http://www.come-and-hear.com/babamezia/ ... ia_42.html

One should always divide his wealth into three parts: [investing] a third in land, a third in merchandise, and [keeping] a third ready to hand.
Clive
 
Posts: 1075
Joined: Sat Jun 13, 2009 6:49 am

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Levett » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:19 am

Sorry, Rex, that's a bad example. If anything, it's an example of how so-called diversification doesn't help a bit when a Black Swan arrives.

Antonio loses all his merchandise at sea, and this is what sets off the most serious plot in the play--e.g., what "compensation" Shylock will recquire from Antonio, especially since Antonio--like many of his real-life contemporaries--has a bad case of anti-semitism.

But Shakespeare himself was a pretty slick operator when it came to Stratford real estate! :)

Lev
Levett
 
Posts: 3310
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:10 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby dkturner » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:35 am

rex wrote:nor is my whole estate
Upon the fortune of this present year


Looks like Antonio had a bond ladder 8-)
dkturner
 
Posts: 787
Joined: Sun Feb 25, 2007 8:58 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby tadamsmar » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:36 am

Antonio invested on margin and very nearly lost it all.
User avatar
tadamsmar
 
Posts: 6123
Joined: Mon May 07, 2007 1:33 pm

Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby bobcat2 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:52 pm

Yale economist John Geanakoplos teaches basic finance (Collateral, Present Value, Interest, and Diversification) through Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

Link to presentation. http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2875/Financial-Theory/7

In other words The Merchant of Venice has a lot more to say about finance that just diversification. The main financial points in the play are about the importance of collateral and the legal enforcement of financial contracts. The leverage in the financial contract was wrong and at the end of the play the 'judge' changes the collateral to -
A pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood.

BobK
In finance risk is defined as uncertainty that is consequential (nontrivial). | | The two main methods of dealing with financial risk are the matching of assets to goals & diversifying.
User avatar
bobcat2
 
Posts: 4190
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:27 pm
Location: just barely Outside the Beltway

Re: Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby chaz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:01 pm

bobcat2 wrote:Yale economist John Geanakoplos teaches basic finance (Collateral, Present Value, Interest, and Diversification) through Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice.

Link to presentation. http://freevideolectures.com/Course/2875/Financial-Theory/7

In other words The Merchant of Venice has a lot more to say about finance that just diversification. The main financial points in the play are about the importance of collateral and the legal enforcement of financial contracts. The leverage in the financial contract was wrong and at the end of the play the 'judge' changes the collateral to -
A pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood.

BobK

The 'judge' made it impossible for the creditor to collect.

As Polonius said, neither a borrower nor a lender be.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
chaz
 
Posts: 13098
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby nisiprius » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:45 pm

So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
User avatar
nisiprius
Advisory Board
 
Posts: 25221
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:33 am
Location: The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, flattened at the poles, is my abode.--O. Henry

Re: Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby bertilak » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:47 pm

chaz wrote:As Polonius said, neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Well, that would cut into my bond allocation!

Luckily, it is well known that Polonius was a blowhard!
No-one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it sometime you will see why. | -- Mignon McLaughlin
User avatar
bertilak
 
Posts: 3169
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: East of the Pecos, West of the Mississippi

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Levett » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:49 pm

The leverage was all Shakespeare's.

And that's why we hear something like the following before the desperate "judge" (who stands for the majority) has to bend to casuistry to get out of her fix:

You have among you many a purchased slave,
91 Which, like your asses and your dogs and mules,
92 You use in abject and in slavish parts,
93 Because you bought them: shall I say to you,
94 Let them be free, marry them to your heirs?
95 Why sweat they under burdens? let their beds
96 Be made as soft as yours and let their palates
97 Be season'd with such viands? You will answer
98 "The slaves are ours": so do I answer you:
99 The pound of flesh, which I demand of him,
100 Is dearly bought; 'tis mine and I will have it.


The rest is history.

Lev
Levett
 
Posts: 3310
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:10 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:56 pm

nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria
Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)
User avatar
VictoriaF
 
Posts: 11821
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby chaz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:57 pm

bertilak wrote:
chaz wrote:As Polonius said, neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Well, that would cut into my bond allocation!

Luckily, it is well known that Polonius was a blowhard!

But I liked his thoughts.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
chaz
 
Posts: 13098
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Barry Barnitz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 3:58 pm

Hi:

Portia's address to Shylock:
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare - Portia's speech

Portia asks Shylock for mercy.Antonio's ship is lost so he cannot pay. Shylock brings Antonio to court for his pound of flesh. Portia dresses up as a lawyer to defend Antonio. This is her first speech to Shylock.
Portia:
The quality of mercy is not strain'd,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath: it is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
'Tis mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That, in the course of justice, none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy. I have spoke thus much
To mitigate the justice of thy plea;
Which if thou follow, this strict court of Venice
Must needs give sentence 'gainst the merchant there.

Shylock refuses mercy. Portia then points out that while he is entitled to a pound of flesh, he cannot spill any blood!
Image | blb | December Birthday Celebration: Ludwig van Beethoven
User avatar
Barry Barnitz
Wiki Admin
 
Posts: 2633
Joined: Mon Feb 19, 2007 11:42 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby bottlecap » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:01 pm

nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


Not a literary "scholar" by any means, but extracting a pound of flesh suggests that the punishment for non-payment is death. Shylock would want that because it gives Antonio every incentive possible not to be a deadbeat. That and it creates more tension in the play than Antonio working off the debt for 15 years as an indentured servant.

I don't think it is unsatisfactorily contrived, and certainly not any more than the rest of the language in the piece!

JT
User avatar
bottlecap
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:21 am
Location: Tennessee

Re: Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby bertilak » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:11 pm

chaz wrote:
bertilak wrote:
chaz wrote:As Polonius said, neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Well, that would cut into my bond allocation!

Luckily, it is well known that Polonius was a blowhard!

But I liked his thoughts.

Well, to thine own self be true.
No-one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it sometime you will see why. | -- Mignon McLaughlin
User avatar
bertilak
 
Posts: 3169
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: East of the Pecos, West of the Mississippi

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Levett » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:12 pm

Victoria,

You are on the right track.

Lev
Levett
 
Posts: 3310
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:10 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:13 pm

Levett wrote:Victoria,

You are on the right track.

Lev


It's feels good to be endorsed by an expert, Lev ;-).

Victoria
Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)
User avatar
VictoriaF
 
Posts: 11821
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Levett » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:31 pm

Victoria,

Shakespeare dares to go--not just in one play--where few dare to go.

For the skeptical, in another play--Othello-- Othello himself speaks thus: “I took by the throat the circumcised dog / And smote him thus." (In this instance, Othello speaks of a Turkish adversary.)

Shakespeare's plays are very much rooted in the language and attitudes of his times.

Lev
Levett
 
Posts: 3310
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:10 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:35 pm

Shakespeare was very play-ful.

Victoria
Last edited by VictoriaF on Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:57 am, edited 2 times in total.
Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)
User avatar
VictoriaF
 
Posts: 11821
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby bobcat2 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:37 pm

So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place.
Shylock is in a foul mood to begin with because he has recently learned that his daughter is marrying a Christian. When the terms of the loan come up Antonio complains that a good Christian would never charge interest for a loan the way a Jew does. Furthermore, Antonio believes Shylock typically charges interest rates that are outrageously high. So Shylock, fed up by the whole business of making loans to quarrelsome Christians, says ok I will charge you zero interest, but instead impose a very high collateral. This gets Antonio into a world of trouble because he has foolishly relied solely on diversification to manage the risk involved in his shipping business. Antonio would have been wiser to manage at least part of his risk thru hedging and/or insuring. In addition to avoid interest payments Antonio has made things much worse by 'highly' leveraging the loan.

There is a lot of finance going on here. :happy

BobK
In finance risk is defined as uncertainty that is consequential (nontrivial). | | The two main methods of dealing with financial risk are the matching of assets to goals & diversifying.
User avatar
bobcat2
 
Posts: 4190
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:27 pm
Location: just barely Outside the Beltway

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Levett » Mon Feb 11, 2013 4:55 pm

One last note re the act of reading and then I shall not disturb this thread further.

If you track the changing definition of the word "reading" (I speak of English usage) you will see that for centuries it meant "reading aloud." Of course, the general public for many centuries was illiterate until translations of scripture began to appear.

Anyway, Shakespeare's plays are meant to be read aloud. They are not "books" to be read. They are scripts--or as a former colleague would say, they are play-texts.

Reading Shakespeare silently is not nearly as meaningful as reading him aloud or, better yet, going to the plays themselves! :D

Lev
Levett
 
Posts: 3310
Joined: Fri Feb 23, 2007 3:10 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Fallible » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:20 pm

For deepest understanding of Shakespeare (and Shylock), read Harold Bloom's Shakespeare, The Invention of the Human (although I'm sure most, if not all here are quite familiar with Bloom). I occasionally take a course in Shakespeare (which includes attending a play) and every instructor has turned to Bloom.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle
Fallible
 
Posts: 3774
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby nisiprius » Mon Feb 11, 2013 5:40 pm

VictoriaF wrote:If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?
I think that's an insightful idea.
Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness; Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
User avatar
nisiprius
Advisory Board
 
Posts: 25221
Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 10:33 am
Location: The terrestrial, globular, planetary hunk of matter, flattened at the poles, is my abode.--O. Henry

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby chaz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:28 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria

A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
chaz
 
Posts: 13098
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby VictoriaF » Mon Feb 11, 2013 6:31 pm

chaz wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria

A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.

May be Shylock uses pound as a verb?

Victoria
Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)
User avatar
VictoriaF
 
Posts: 11821
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby chaz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:02 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
chaz wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria

A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.

May be Shylock uses pound as a verb?

Victoria

No, it was a weight measure.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
chaz
 
Posts: 13098
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby bertilak » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:40 pm

chaz wrote:A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.

Speak for yourself, chaz!
No-one really listens to anyone else, and if you try it sometime you will see why. | -- Mignon McLaughlin
User avatar
bertilak
 
Posts: 3169
Joined: Tue Aug 02, 2011 6:23 pm
Location: East of the Pecos, West of the Mississippi

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby chaz » Mon Feb 11, 2013 7:45 pm

bertilak wrote:
chaz wrote:A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.

Speak for yourself, chaz!

bertilak, don't brag.
Chaz | | “Money is better than poverty, if only for financial reasons." Woody Allen | | http://www.bogleheads.org/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
chaz
 
Posts: 13098
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 3:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Random Musings » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:06 pm

To diversify or not to diversify...........

Shakespeare did own a bit of real estate (and land) and was relatively well off as he left a decent chuck of assets to his heirs. Besides his ownership in his playing company (and he bought another one later) - he also loaned money to others.

With respect to his playing company, the Globe, I wonder what part of the profits came from the plays and how much from gambling and brothel activities?

Hmmmm. A loan shark, pimp and bookie. One stop shopping. Need a loan to satify your urges in the vices in life? Give Shakespeare a call.

RM
User avatar
Random Musings
 
Posts: 5035
Joined: Thu Feb 22, 2007 5:24 pm
Location: Pennsylvania

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby bottlecap » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:00 pm

bertilak wrote:
chaz wrote:A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.

Speak for yourself, chaz!


You beat me to this. :sharebeer

JT
User avatar
bottlecap
 
Posts: 3251
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:21 am
Location: Tennessee

The Bards take on collateral & interest

Postby bobcat2 » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:12 pm

Back in Venice, Bassanio secures his three thousand ducats from a rich Jewish moneylender named Shylock. Shylock is reluctant to have Antonio secure the loan since Shylock explains Antonio's ships and wealth are at sea on his ships and are at risk from pirates and "the peril of waters, winds, and rocks" (Lines 12-28).

Shylock when asked to dine with Antonio, significantly refuses, explaining that while he will do business with Antonio, walk, buy, sell and talk with him, he will not drink, dine or pray (Shylock is Jewish, Antonio is Christian) with him (Lines 32-40).

Shylock hates Antonio intensely and has little love for Bassanio. Shylock in particular resents Antonio for being "Christian;" (Line 43), for lending money without charging interest which lowers the interest rate in Venice that Shylock can lend money out on, for hating Shylock's "sacred nation," (Line 49) and for criticizing Shylock for charging interest on loans which Shylock considers to be good business.

Shylock has not yet decided if he will charge interest noting that Antonio has always pledged neither to lend nor borrow money with interest and tells the story of Jacob and his flock of sheep. Antonio insults Shylock by asking if interest was charged (Line 76).

Shylock calculates the interest he will charge but does not name a figure (Lines 104-108), noting how Antonio now asks for money from a man Shylock considers was seen as a "dog" in Antonio's eyes (Lines 108-138).

Antonio tells Shylock to make the terms of the loan those he would give to an enemy (Line 136).

Feigning friendship now towards Antonio, Shylock agrees to lend the money without interest to prove his sincerity (Lines 138-143).

However there is a catch; if Bassanio does not repay the debt within the specified two months, Shylock who hates Antonio can by agreement, cut from him a pound of flesh.

Bassanio does not like this but Antonio assures him that when his ships return he expects a "return [profit] / Of thrice three times the value of this bond [three thousand ducats]" (Line 160).

Shylock notes that a pound of flesh is not nearly as valuable as "flesh of muttons, beefs, or goats" (Line 168), adding that he makes this offer in friendship (Lines 144-152).

Emphasizing that Shylock is not serious about the pound of flesh, Shylock urges Antonio and Bassanio to meet with him at the "notary's; [an official]" to inform this man of "this merry [silly humorous] bond," after which Shylock promises to deliver the ducats immediately.

Bassanio, suspicious of the "merry bond," does not like his friend taking such a risk for him but Antonio is not worried since as he says, "My ships come home a month before the day" (my ships and wealth return a month before the debt is due), (Line 183).


Above from Absolute Shakespeare
Link - http://absoluteshakespeare.com/guides/merchant_of_venice/commentary/act_i.htm

This idea that collateral rates might be more important than interest rates is not entirely original. As you
know, Shakespeare had the same thought, four hundred years ago, in the Merchant of Venice. If you
remember, in that play, there was a negotiation over a loan. Shylock, the money lender, is asked for a loan
by Bassanio and Antonio. Bassanio needs the money to woo the beautiful (and rich) Portia and he enlists
the aid of his friend Antonio and they go to Shylock and ask for a loan. They spend five pages in the play, at
least in my little copy of it, negotiating the interest rate in a fascinating discussion in which Shakespeare
anticipates the modern impatience theory of interest. Shylock says: Like all my tribe, I am a patient man;
Antonio says: I need the money to satisfy the ripe wants of my friend. So they are arguing about what
interest rate to put in the contract, and that seems to be the main focus of the negotiation. But they also
agree on the collateral.

And now, which do we think Shakespeare thought was the more important? That is
pretty obvious: Shakespeare thought the collateral was the more important, because nobody can
remember the interest rate. Who here remembers the interest rate that Shylock charged Antonio and
Bassanio? Yet, all of you, I am sure, you can all tell me what the collateral was: a pound of flesh. So
Shakespeare realized the collateral was more important than the interest rate and not only that. If you
remember how the play ends, the play ends with a trial and Portia disguises herself as the Judge. The Judge
has to decide what to do. All of Antonio’s boats have apparently sunk, and he cannot repay the 3000
ducats he owes Shylock. The Judge says that enforcing contracts is crucial to business, the lifeblood of
Venice. She acknowledges that the entire contract was freely entered into by both parties. Nevertheless,
she says it is for the benefit of the city that she must intervene. The Judge does not adjust the amount
owed, the three thousand ducats, nor does she change the interest rate. The Judge, the Regulatory Body,
just like the Federal Reserve you might say, adjusts the collateral: she says it should be a pound of flesh, but
not a drop of blood!


Testimony of John Geanakoplos befor the House Committee of Financial Services -
Link to testimony. http://archives.financialservices.house.gov/media/file/hearings/111/geanakoplos_-_combined.pdf

BobK
In finance risk is defined as uncertainty that is consequential (nontrivial). | | The two main methods of dealing with financial risk are the matching of assets to goals & diversifying.
User avatar
bobcat2
 
Posts: 4190
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:27 pm
Location: just barely Outside the Beltway

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Don Christy » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:14 pm

chaz wrote:
VictoriaF wrote:
nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.


If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria

A circumcision would not yield a pound of flesh.


Perhaps castration rather than circumcision. Isn't flesh often a euphemism for penis in Elizabethan writing?
“Speak only if it improves upon the silence." Mahatma Gandhi
User avatar
Don Christy
 
Posts: 364
Joined: Sun Oct 11, 2009 11:33 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby SHL » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:33 pm

Seriously, "struct me"? :oops:

As the Bard might say:

To spell-check or not to spell-check: that is the question.
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of Internet ridicule
Or to take arms against a sea of grammar nazis,
And by proof-reading end them? To cry: to weep;
So get thee to a dictionary, go!

:mrgreen:
Last edited by SHL on Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
Stephen
User avatar
SHL
 
Posts: 153
Joined: Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:53 pm
Location: Nashville, TN

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby fishnskiguy » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:53 pm

Levett wrote:One last note re the act of reading and then I shall not disturb this thread further.

If you track the changing definition of the word "reading" (I speak of English usage) you will see that for centuries it meant "reading aloud." Of course, the general public for many centuries was illiterate until translations of scripture began to appear.

Anyway, Shakespeare's plays are meant to be read aloud. They are not "books" to be read. They are scripts--or as a former colleague would say, they are play-texts.

Reading Shakespeare silently is not nearly as meaningful as reading him aloud or, better yet, going to the plays themselves! :D

Lev


So well said. Nice.

Chris
Trident D-5 SLBM- "When you care enough to send the very best."
User avatar
fishnskiguy
Moderator
 
Posts: 2537
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 2:27 pm
Location: Eagle, CO

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue Feb 12, 2013 4:31 pm

nisiprius wrote:So, please, scholars, help me. I have never understood why Shylock would have wanted, or Antonio pledged, "a pound of flesh" in the first place. Is it supposed to be a euphemism, as the word "flesh" sometimes is ("sins of the flesh")--but "the flesh" doesn't weigh THAT much. Doesn't the "flesh but no blood" seem unsatisfactorily contrived, although no worse than "no man of woman born shall harm Macbeth" or some of the stuff in Gilbert & Sullivan?

I've always had the feeling that there's something about the "pound of flesh" I'm not getting. Something the groundlings understood.

Hi nisi,

bobcat2's quoted summary is a good one, but let me see if I can add something.

All quotes are from:
Wells, Stanley and Gary Taylor, William Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Antonio doesn't want to help Bassanio take a loan, but feels he has no choice. He approaches Shylock, a moneylender of his acquaintance (and hence a Jew; Christians at that place at that time couldn't charge interest and therefore didn't bother making loans), whom he frequently berates, and even physically abuses, to ask for 3000 ducats; a large sum Shylock can only raise by borrowing it at interest himself. Shylock says:

Signor Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances.
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For suff'rance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help.
Go to, then. You come to me, and you say
'Shylock, we would have moneys' -- you say so,
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard,
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold. Moneys is your suit.
What should I say to you? Should I not say
'Hath a dog money? Is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?' Or
Shall I bend low, and in a bondsman's key,
With bated breath and whisp'ring humbleness
Say this: 'Fair sir, you spat on me on Wednesday last;
You spurned me such a day; another time
You called me dog; and for these courtesies
I'll lend you thus much moneys?'

Nevertheless, Shylock, wishing to improve relations, offers a zero-interest loan, with ridiculous, useless, purely symbolic collateral of a pound of Antonio's flesh. He says:

...
I would be friends with you and have your love,
Forget the shames that you have stained me with,
Supply your present wants, and take no doit
Of usance for my moneys; ...

... let the forfeit
Be nominated for an equal pound
Of your fair flesh ...

Antonio says:

Content, in faith. I'll seal to such a bond,
And say there is much kindness in the Jew.
...

In an aside to to Antonio's friend Bassanio, Shylock says:

... Pray you tell me this:
If he should break his day, what should I gain
By the exaction of this forfeiture?
A pound of man's flesh taken from a man
Is not so estimable, profitable neither,
As flesh of muttons, beeves, or goats. I say,
To buy his favour I extend this friendship.
If he will take it, so. ...

So here's the deal:

Shylock is sincerely trying to reconcile with Antonio by meeting him 99% of the way. When pledged, the pound of flesh is a token to satisfy local contract customs. Shylock asks for something which couldn't possibly benefit him, and he has no intention of collecting even if Antonio fails to pay.

Later on, Antonio helps his friend Lorenzo to elope with Shylock's daughter Jessica (his only family after his wife died), stealing at the same time his money and possessions. Shylock's friend Tubal reports of one of Antonio's sailors:

Tubal:
One of them showed me a ring that he had of your daughter for a monkey.
Shylock:
Out upon her! Thou torturest me, Tubal. It was my turquoise. I had it of Leah when I was a bachelor. I would not have given it for a wilderness of monkeys.

It is at this point Shylock convinces himself that since Jews are like Christians in all physical aspects, he will be like them and seek revenge.

Note that up until now, Shylock has had no thought of collecting the flesh. It is only because Antonio (via his friend Lorenzo) has robbed him of the only thing in his whole life he truly values, his relationship with his daughter, that he decides to take it if he can.

Then all five of Antonio's ships are lost, and the opportunity arises.

In front of a "judge" in a "court" (I'll explain the scare quotes in a moment), Shylock turns down an offer of triple the money, not because he is evil, but because he is angry. As in many plays, Shakespeare explored just how far his character could be pushed, then sent him over the edge.

Antonio, a man of honor who has made a solemn pledge, asks the "court":

Most heartily I do beseech the court
To give the judgement.

Shylock and Antonio are in agreement. Neither is asking the "court" to alter their contract; both want Shylock to cut out Antonio's flesh.

Then the "judge" alters the agreement: makes up the "no blood" bit on the spot; compels Shylock immediately to give half the remnant of his wealth to Lorenzo (who stole Jessica away from him, further implying she has converted to Christianity thus totally rejecting her father and late mother - cf. 4th commandment); to leave the rest to Lorenzo upon his death; and immediately to convert to Christianity himself.

Now for the scare quotes.

The "judge" is not a judge. "He" is a different character entirely, a young woman named Portia who is central to the play's main plot, impersonating a judge. Therefore the "court" is not a court. Portia has preplanned the entire affair, and the "justice" dealt is not justice.

I have an additional interpretation. I've not seen it anywhere, but no other scholar I've discussed it with has disagreed with me:

The only character in the whole play who does anything seriously wrong is Portia. By impersonating a judge and convening a false court she strikes directly at the heart of the state. It is felonious.

If there were to be a sequel, and if it were to be realistic, it would be the story of Portia's trial and execution.

But that's just me.

Feeling any more enlightened, nisi?

PJW
User avatar
Phineas J. Whoopee
 
Posts: 2528
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby VictoriaF » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:05 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:...
I have an additional interpretation. I've not seen it anywhere, but no other scholar I've discussed it with has disagreed with me:

The only character in the whole play who does anything seriously wrong is Portia. By impersonating a judge and convening a false court she strikes directly at the heart of the state. It is felonious.

If there were to be a sequel, and if it were to be realistic, it would be the story of Portia's trial and execution.

But that's just me.

Would not this depend on the legal system? While civil law may not have any provisions relevant to Shylock, common law could include various relevant precedents.

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:Feeling any more enlightened, nisi?

PJW

I am feeling more enlightened,

Victoria
Every joke has a bit of a joke. ... The rest is the truth. (Marat F)
User avatar
VictoriaF
 
Posts: 11821
Joined: Tue Feb 27, 2007 8:27 am
Location: Black Swan Lake

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Phineas J. Whoopee » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:46 pm

VictoriaF wrote:
Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:...
I have an additional interpretation. I've not seen it anywhere, but no other scholar I've discussed it with has disagreed with me:

The only character in the whole play who does anything seriously wrong is Portia. By impersonating a judge and convening a false court she strikes directly at the heart of the state. It is felonious.

If there were to be a sequel, and if it were to be realistic, it would be the story of Portia's trial and execution.

But that's just me.

Would not this depend on the legal system? While civil law may not have any provisions relevant to Shylock, common law could include various relevant precedents.

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:Feeling any more enlightened, nisi?

PJW

I am feeling more enlightened,

Victoria

Thanks Victoria,

Allow me to speak out of both sides of my mouth. I usually do that, but ordinarily they say the same thing.

1) Shakespeare was writing about Venice around 500-600 years ago, but from England 400 years ago; and
2) Shakespeare was not writing documentaries (recent news stories regarding Richard III have emphasized that point in particular).

What state (in this case Venice - don't forget about the Bridge of Sighs), especially half a millennium ago without benefit of the European Convention on Human Rights, could tolerate a non-judge: deceiving and diverting a real judge; impersonating that judge and taking over; conspiring with her friend who was intimately involved with the case to enrich that friend (Shylock's daughter Jessica); convening a fake court; making up fake law; issuing fake rulings; driving away the only people who could possibly fund the state's wars; and fooling the monarch?

Common; Hammurabic; Sharia; STELLA!!!; Halakhic; Statutory; Uncommon; Government of Laws; Government of Men; Government of Small Furry Creatures from Alpha Centauri: you name it. That starlet ingenue is deader than a tuna.

On the other hand, the play, originally published as The Comical History of the Merchant of Venice, or Otherwise Called the Jew of Venice was a comedy, and traditionally Shylock was played as a clown complete with a bald-on-top-but-sticky-out-red-hair wig.

One great thing about Shakespeare is almost all the characters (there are counterexamples but fewer than many readers realize) have depth and integrity, and can be reinterpreted through the ages. Though the words are the same, The Merchant of Venice today is no longer the same play as before WW2.

PJW
User avatar
Phineas J. Whoopee
 
Posts: 2528
Joined: Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:18 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby gkaplan » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:56 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:....The only character in the whole play who does anything seriously wrong is Portia....


I think the only one character in the whole play who does anything right is Shylock. He certainly is the most sympathetic character in the play, I think.
Gordon
gkaplan
 
Posts: 5269
Joined: Sat Mar 03, 2007 9:34 pm
Location: Portland, Oregon

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Fallible » Tue Feb 12, 2013 11:23 pm

Phineas J. Whoopee wrote:...
If there were to be a sequel, and if it were to be realistic, it would be the story of Portia's trial and execution.

But that's just me.,,,

PJW


The critic Harold Bloom thought the play was Portia's. Maybe he would agree to your sequel? I enjoyed your post.
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle
Fallible
 
Posts: 3774
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:44 pm

Re: Shakespeare on interest vs leverage

Postby bobcat2 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:04 am

Hi Fallible,

Here's an interesting aside about Harold Bloom and the Merchant of Venice. Yale economist John Geanokoplos likes to use this play to discuss important points in basic finance and how Shakespeare was able to discern 400 years ago that the leverage in a loan is at least as important as the interest rate. So one day a few years ago Geanokoplos trekked across the Yale campus to talk to Bloom about the play to make sure he wasn't missing anything. Bloom said that John had come at exactly the right time because Bloom would be lecturing the next day on this play and so the entire play was very fresh in Bloom's mind. Harold invited John to sit in on the class and John accepted.

Geanokoplos then asked Bloom if he knew the interest rate Shylock charged. Bloom couldn't recall the interest, but they both agreed that everyone knows the leverage. :D At that point Geanokoplos knew for sure that Shakespeare had anticipated by 400 years a financial principle that Geanokoplos was now certain of. Namely, that in appraising loans the leverage is at least as an important aspect of the contract as the interest rate.

So 400 years ago Shakespeare knew more about basic finance than most Bogleheads know today. Shakespeare realized that diversification often fails as risk management, and if the financial risk is really important one needs to manage the risk thru insurance or hedging - not by diversifying. And as just stated WS also recognized the crucial importance of leverage in finance. Otherwise the crucial plot point would have hinged on the interest rate. The Bard was in many ways, including financial theory, one sharp dude. :D

BobK
In finance risk is defined as uncertainty that is consequential (nontrivial). | | The two main methods of dealing with financial risk are the matching of assets to goals & diversifying.
User avatar
bobcat2
 
Posts: 4190
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:27 pm
Location: just barely Outside the Beltway

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby DouglasDoug » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:08 am

fishnskiguy wrote:
Levett wrote:One last note re the act of reading and then I shall not disturb this thread further.

If you track the changing definition of the word "reading" (I speak of English usage) you will see that for centuries it meant "reading aloud." Of course, the general public for many centuries was illiterate until translations of scripture began to appear.

Anyway, Shakespeare's plays are meant to be read aloud. They are not "books" to be read. They are scripts--or as a former colleague would say, they are play-texts.

Reading Shakespeare silently is not nearly as meaningful as reading him aloud or, better yet, going to the plays themselves! :D

Lev


So well said. Nice.

Chris

This is just the sort of thing that stumps the ordinary reader from taking up masterpieces. Shakespeare is for everyman, and if one prefers to read it as poetry or experience it as drama, one is the better for having done so. I have seen many poor productions of his works wishing instead I had slummed at home alone with the texts.
DouglasDoug
 
Posts: 123
Joined: Mon Aug 18, 2008 6:38 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby Christine_NM » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:51 am

Shylock foreshadows Portia's argument (pound of [Christian] flesh, not a drop of [Christian] blood) earlier when he says, "If you [Christians] prick us do we [Jews] not bleed?" -- nicely placed in the middle of his argument, where you don't notice its significance until the pseudo-trial.

If there's a meaning in this other than the financial, which I'm sure there is, it's probably an allusion to the [Jewish] Christ's crucifixion. Both sides use the same argument for themselves and against the other -- the Judeo-Christian tradition in action.

Religion was a much hotter controversy in Elizabethan times than finance.
Savor the moment.
User avatar
Christine_NM
 
Posts: 1584
Joined: Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:13 am
Location: New Mexico

Re: Shakespeare on interest vs leverage

Postby Fallible » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:21 pm

bobcat2 wrote:Hi Fallible,

Here's an interesting aside about Harold Bloom and the Merchant of Venice. Yale economist John Geanokoplos likes to use this play to discuss important points in basic finance and how Shakespeare was able to discern 400 years ago that the leverage in a loan is at least as important as the interest rate. So one day a few years ago Geanokoplos trekked across the Yale campus to talk to Bloom about the play to make sure he wasn't missing anything. Bloom said that John had come at exactly the right time because Bloom would be lecturing the next day on this play and so the entire play was very fresh in Bloom's mind. Harold invited John to sit in on the class and John accepted.

Geanokoplos then asked Bloom if he knew the interest rate Shylock charged. Bloom couldn't recall the interest, but they both agreed that everyone knows the leverage. :D At that point Geanokoplos knew for sure that Shakespeare had anticipated by 400 years a financial principle that Geanokoplos was now certain of. Namely, that in appraising loans the leverage is at least as an important aspect of the contract as the interest rate.

So 400 years ago Shakespeare knew more about basic finance than most Bogleheads know today. Shakespeare realized that diversification often fails as risk management, and if the financial risk is really important one needs to manage the risk thru insurance or hedging - not by diversifying. And as just stated WS also recognized the crucial importance of leverage in finance. Otherwise the crucial plot point would have hinged on the interest rate. The Bard was in many ways, including financial theory, one sharp dude. :D

BobK


BobK,

Thanks for the delightful anecdote about Bloom. The Bard was indeed "one sharp dude" about finances, yet that was just the start for him on the way to creating characters that would show in so many ways the destructive power of money and greed.

Fallible
“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” ~Aristotle
Fallible
 
Posts: 3774
Joined: Fri Nov 27, 2009 5:44 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on basic finance

Postby protagonist » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:07 am

bobcat2 wrote: at the end of the play the 'judge' changes the collateral to -
A pound of flesh, but not a drop of blood.

BobK


Sort of like the way the "regulators" have handled (and are still handling) the bankers after the 2008 debacle?
protagonist
 
Posts: 2205
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:47 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby protagonist » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:11 am

VictoriaF wrote:
If Shylock was a Jew and Antonio a gentile, perhaps, Shylock wanted Antonio to undergo circumcision?

Victoria


If that would account for "a pound of flesh", I am forced to admit Antonio was much more of a man than I.
protagonist
 
Posts: 2205
Joined: Sun Dec 26, 2010 1:47 pm

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby baw703916 » Sat Feb 16, 2013 11:17 am

I would like to also point out that The Merchant of Venice expressed a somewhat skeptical opinion about precious metals. :wink:
Most of my posts assume no behavioral errors.
User avatar
baw703916
 
Posts: 5584
Joined: Sun Apr 01, 2007 2:10 pm
Location: Northern Virginia

Re: Shakespearean take on diversification

Postby bsteiner » Sat Feb 16, 2013 8:29 pm

In Act I, Scene III, of Macbeth, Banquo says "If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then to me."

That's based on Ecclesiastes 11:6, which says "In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not which shall prosper, whether this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."
.בַּבֹּקֶר זְרַע אֶת-זַרְעֶךָ, וְלָעֶרֶב אַל-תַּנַּח יָדֶךָ: כִּי אֵינְךָ יוֹדֵעַ אֵי זֶה יִכְשָׁר, הֲזֶה אוֹ-זֶה, וְאִם-שְׁנֵיהֶם כְּאֶחָד, טוֹבִים.
bsteiner
 
Posts: 854
Joined: Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:39 pm
Location: NYC


Return to Investing - Theory, News & General

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Baidu [Spider], BigFoot48, Flexo52, Iorek, jvclark02, MN-Investor, Reb Tevye, SuperSaver, Yahoo [Bot] and 75 guests