Utne Blogs > Literature

In Shakespeare Quotes, All That Glisters Is Not Gold

 by Bennett Gordon

Tags: Great Writing, Shakespeare, VQR,

In the populist rage boiling over about the economic crisis, Michael Lukas on the VQR blog points out that the phrase “pound of flesh” has been perverted by the mainstream press. The quote from Merchant of Venice, Act I, Scene III, literally means to “demand the repayment of a debt, no matter how much suffering it will cost the debtor,” according to The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. It is not a small price to pay, as Steven Greenhouse wrote in the New York Times

Treasury officials thought they would carefully exact only a pound of flesh from Wall Street by letting Lehman fail, helping teach other investment banks not to take excessive risks. ‘But,’ he said, ‘it turned out not to be a pound of flesh that was taken. It was a ton.’ 

Literary minds should forgive Greenhouse for his offense against Shakespeare. Forgiveness, according to the play’s Portia, “is twice blest, It blesseth him that gives, and him that takes.”

Source: VQR Blog