I, Spender

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I get emails from readers all the time encouraging me to be more playful and experimental with my writing, so here’s a little experiment, posted quietly on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when no one will be reading. It’s an adaptation of one of my favorite literary passages, Claudius’s soliloquy from Act 3, Scene III of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in which Claudius confesses his past sins and offers repentance in his own way. I hope you enjoy it, but if not, even if you think it’s unspeakably awful, take a moment to dive into Hamlet. It is truly excellent.

O, my offence is rank it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon it,
Many dollars wasted. I cannot take it back,
though my inclination is as sharp as my will.

My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And I am a man to his debt bound.

I stand in pause, realizing that I must start again
to recover this neglect. What if this cursed hand
that chooses to spend so easily were weighted down?

Is there not money enough in my coffers
to wash away the interest?

Is there no mercy for the spender,
to avoid confrontation with this offense?

Perhaps I can offer up a prayer
to forestall this great fall
or to pardon my failure?

If I can fix the problem, I may look up; my fault is past.

But, what form of penance shall serve my mistake?
Asking for forgiveness of the debt?
That cannot be, for I still possess
those debts which I earned myself.

My most splendid possessions, my own greed, and my earthly desires
Can I keep these and still wash away the debt?

Oh, the banks of this world are corrupt
Their interest-heavy, gilded hands often shove aside justice
And make it easy for us to fall into greed
By our own hands.

But it is not so in heaven, or in our own life.
There is no shuffling, only facing
the truth of our own nature, and we are compelled
even in the face of excuses and desires
to give into the evidence: debts, no savings, and years of mistakes.

Now it is time to try repentance: to begin to save and pay.

But in my heart, I often wish to be free of it!

O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engaged! Help, angels! Make assay!
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the newborn babe!
All may be well.

Overcoming bad financial moves is a modern struggle of the soul, much like Claudius struggling with himself in Hamlet. Hope this inspired you as much as Shakespeare has inspired me.

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37 thoughts on “I, Spender

  1. Falstaff:
    I will not lend thee a penny.

    Pistol:
    Why then the world’s mine oyster,
    Which I with sword will open.

    Falstaff:
    Not a penny.
    The Merry Wives Of Windsor Act 2, scene 2, 2–5

    Thanks for the quoteth (personalized!). I love Shakespeare.

    Namaste

  2. I’m glad you listened to the encouragement of those readers who prompted this “playful experiment.” Well done, too. For me, this post was like finding an unexpected flavor or texture in a familiar food, making the whole dish more enjoyable. Thanks!

  3. Well that was interesting, I’m not saying I like it but this is obviously out of your comfort zone so it’s always nice to stretch our skills a little. You’re willing to be bold and fresh and plus you bring up thought-provoking issues to your readers, thank you!

  4. I’ve never enjoyed reading or listening to the Shakespearean stuff but I did enjoy yours. It was a message that I could actually “get”. ;-)

  5. I made myself read this even though I really wanted to skip it and move on to GRS. Honestly, I should’ve skipped it and moved on to get GRS.

    I hated Shakespeare in high school and I guess I still do. Anytime you have to translate English into English, I’m not down. I hate to sound like an unsophisticated moron, but I’m just an average dude trying to learn more about money and personal productivity.

    “Trent, Trent, where for art thou Trent?”

    What the heck does that mean anyways?!

  6. I think Jamie is right, and it’s good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. I’d even argue that a need to break out of old habits (spending, et al) is what brought most of us here in the first place.

  7. Trent
    I enjoyed this deviation from normal style. But I enjoy your writing and point of view just as it is. Your writing style IS refreshing and your topics are not tedious and always thought provoking. I don’t need Shakespeare or entertainment per se from you. We get inspiration, motivation and awareness. That’s plenty. Plus your honesty in sharing your own experiences, a bonus in itself.

    You don’t have to entertain me or amuse me to want to read your articles. I think some people simply can’t appreciate how much work you already do and how unique your voice and content are.

    Seems to me that some people just get bored with the topic itself, no matter who is writing. Cause there is an underlying message and it doesn’t change. That’s probably hard to take (repetitive, too) for those who really don’t want to hear it. Or are having trouble coping with facts.

    Keep listening to your inner voice when you write. You succeed because you are who you are. You don’t have to do just what readers want, just because they want it. This reader wants you just the way you are. Your stuff is playful and interesting as you’ve been doing it.

    It’s a lot of work to do what you do and to do it so well. I hope those same folks who want something “more” or “different” keep that in mind. You’re not an actor or performer and you should not be asked to be either. You’re a writer. And an inspired one. Be YOU!

  8. Great job, Trent. I took many Shakespeare courses in college and used to go to Shakespeare in the Park in Central Park some years ago, before it became impossible to do so. Hamlet is one of my favs.

  9. I wished I had listened or had some personal finance advice. Alas, woe is me for my debt is piled high and whom have I to blame? I now must face the fires of debt unbridled and yet to be payed. In other words I can relate bto your article.

  10. @“Trent, Trent, where for art thou Trent?”

    What the heck does that mean anyways?!”

    It means, “Trent, where are you” but is much more rhythmic and emphatic.

  11. As a big Shakespeare fan I enjoyed your post. “When nobody’s reading” LOL. I don’t think there’s ever a time when you don’t have anybody reading.

  12. “…where for art thou Trent?”
    What the heck does that mean anyways?!”

    I believe it means, “WHY are you?” not “WHERE are you,” but I could be mistaken. School was a LONG time ago, LOL.

    Anyway, VERY creative post, Trent!!!

  13. As a former English teacher and a mom of 4 high-schoolers, I had to help one of them write a sonnet the other night. It can be a grueling experience, but he prevailed. I plan on sharing your efforts with him to show him that work is honorable, adults still have to stretch themselves, and truth is shared in many forms. Great job!

  14. Trent I love it! I’m reading The Other Queen by Phillipa Gregory. It concerns the prickly problem of Mary Queen of Scots and her “guest” status in England in the 1570s. Her hosts, the Earl of Shrewsberry and his wife go broke hosting the Queen of Scots at the behest of Queen Elizabeth. It is indeed a great read and speaks volumes about the thrift of Shrewsberrys wife, Bess, and how her lame brain, enamoured husband spends her fortune on his prisoner, Mary Queen of Scots. It’s wonderful to branch out in writing. I very much enjoyed your post.

  15. Prodgod is right. “Wherefore art thou Romeo” doesn’t mean ‘where are you’? It means ‘why did you have to be Romeo Montague, why couldn’t you be someone my family isn’t at war with?’ Basically, ‘wherefore’ is ‘why’.

    And this was fun to read, Trent.

  16. “Trent, Trent, wherefore art thou Trent?”

    What the heck does that mean anyways?!

    It means “why are you Trent?” It is a reference to these lines from Romeo and Juliet:

    O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?
    Deny thy father and refuse thy name;
    Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love
    And I’ll no longer be a Capulet.

    ‘Tis but thy name that is my enemy:
    Thou art thyself, though not a Montague.
    What’s Montague? It is nor hand nor foot,
    Nor arm nor face, nor any other part
    Belonging to a man. O be some other name!
    What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
    By any other word would smell as sweet;
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for thy name, which is no part of thee,
    Take all myself.

    Juliet is forbidden to love Romeo because of the enmity between their two families, and here she is wondering why the man she loves had the misfortune to be born to the bitter rivals of her father’s house. It is one of the most misquoted passages in Shakespeare, since people invariably refer to “a rose by any other name”.

  17. @steve, @prodgod, @chris:

    “Wherefore art thou Trent?” definitely means “why are you Trent” but it is common to make that mistake. You see, Juliet is really unhappy when she finds out that Romeo is the son of her family’s enemy, and rather than wondering where he is, she is wondering why he has to be named what he is for “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet”–in other words, she wants him to be called something else so she can be with him.

    With Trent, it doesn’t really work:

    However, I will say that another Hamlet quote does:
    “Neither a borrower, nor a lender be, do not forget stay out of debt….to thine own self be true and then it follows as the night does the sun that thou can not be false to any man.”
    (quoting from memory)

  18. Heh heh. Of course, Claudius never has to resolve this himself, as Hamlet effectively makes the decision for him….

    I once rewrote Macbeth’s dagger speech to be about meatloaf. :-)

  19. I once rewrote Macbeth’s dagger speech to be about meatloaf. :-)

    Jen @ 4:08 pm November 30th, 2008 (comment #29)

    Oh, prithee, post it!

  20. Ok, luvleftovers, you asked for it:

    Is this a Meatloaf, which I see before me,
    The Spatula toward my Hand? Come, let me taste thee:
    I have thee not, and yet I smell thee still.
    Art thou not, tasty Vision, sensible
    To chewing, as to sight? or art thou but
    A Meatloaf of the Minde, a false Creation,
    Proceeding from the hunger-oppressed Braine?
    I see thee yet, in form as edible,
    As this which now I munch.
    Thou hunger’st me the way that I was going,
    And such an Entree I was to eat.
    Mine Eyes are made the fools o’th’other Senses,
    Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still,
    And on thy Pan, and Spatula, Gouts of Ketchup,
    Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
    It is the hungry Stomach, which informes
    Thus to mine Eyes….

  21. Ok, luvleftovers, you asked for it:

    Is this a Meatloaf, which I see before me,
    The Spatula toward my Hand? Come, let me taste thee:
    I have thee not, and yet I smell thee still.
    Art thou not, tasty Vision, sensible
    To chewing, as to sight? or art thou but
    A Meatloaf of the Minde, a false Creation,
    Proceeding from the hunger-oppressed Braine?
    I see thee yet, in form as edible,
    As this which now I munch.
    Thou hunger’st me the way that I was going,
    And such an Entree I was to eat.
    Mine Eyes are made the fools o’th’other Senses,
    Or else worth all the rest: I see thee still,
    And on thy Pan, and Spatula, Gouts of Ketchup,
    Which was not so before. There’s no such thing:
    It is the hungry Stomach, which informes
    Thus to mine Eyes….

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