Advertisement

What Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis can teach you about compound interest

Matthew Partridge looks at what lessons Shakespeare's Venus and Adonis holds for investors.

894-Venus-634
Venus and Adonis: love and money

Venus and Adonis is a narrative poem, published in 1593. It is generally agreed to be Shakespeare's first sole publication (though he may have collaborated with other playwrights earlier).

Based on a story mentioned by the Roman poet Ovid, it tells the tale of Venus, the Roman goddess of love, who falls in love with Adonis, a mortal. Although he is initially reluctant, she succeeds in winning his affections by pretending to be dead, thus getting him to kiss her. However, tragedy ensues when he is killed during a hunt something she foresees in a vision. Devastated by his death, she orders that love will forever be mixed with bitterness.

The key moment

During one of her attempts to seduce him, Venus argues that by scorning love, Adonis is wasting his youth and good looks. However, if he becomes her lover, the passion will produce more pleasure for both of them. To help her argument she makes a financial analogy, declaring that "Foul-cankering rust the hidden treasure frets/But gold that's put to use more gold begets". Adonis is unconvinced by this, declaring, "Your treatise makes me like you worse and worse".

The lesson for investors

This particular piece of investment advice may not have charmed Adonis, but it could help you make money. If you sensibly invest your money, it should gradually grow over time, provided you don't make a drastic error, or are particularly unlucky. However, if you stick it under the mattress, or in its modern equivalent, the current account, then it won't increase at all. While the value of gold has outpaced inflation since 1900, US investors would have been better off investing in sharesor even in short-term government bonds.

Other financial wisdom

During the poem Venus talks about jealousy being "this sour informer, this bate-breeding spy". Generally, it's a good idea to focus on your own portfolio rather than trying to copy what others are doing. Indeed, jumping on the latest investment bandwagon is a surefire way to maximise your chances of losing money, as bitcoin has ably demonstrated.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Recommended

How safe are your dividends?
Income investing

How safe are your dividends?

Dividend investing can be a great strategy. But how can you avoid the stocks that are liable to cut your income? Phil Oakley explains.
4 Aug 2020
Reasons for investors to be cheerful
Investment strategy

Reasons for investors to be cheerful

Markets are betting on a V-shaped recovery – and recent data suggests that they may be right.
3 Aug 2020
Great frauds in history: Joe Nacchio’s insider trading
People

Great frauds in history: Joe Nacchio’s insider trading

Joe Nacchio, CEO of telecoms firm Qwest, was convicted of 19 counts of insider trading in 2007 and served four years in prison.
30 Jul 2020
What would the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages say about gold today?
Sponsored

What would the greatest mathematician of the Middle Ages say about gold today?

Italian mathematician Fibonacci is most famous for a curious sequence of numbers. Continuing his series on technical analysis, Dominic Frisby explains…
27 Jul 2020

Most Popular

Can the recent rally in sterling continue?
Sponsored

Can the recent rally in sterling continue?

A "double top"  – a very recognisable pattern – is forming in in the US dollar. Dominic Frisby explains what it is, and what it could tell us about st…
3 Aug 2020
UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy
UK stockmarkets

UK banks have had a shocking week – so it’s probably a good time to buy

Lloyds Bank reported a £676m loss this week. And, with all of the UK's high street banks having a terrible time of things, bank stocks are detested ri…
31 Jul 2020
Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery
Gold

Gold bugs' dreams are coming true – but we could still see a V-shaped recovery

John and Merryn talk about how it's perfectly reasonable to expect a V-shaped recovery and to continue holding gold as well. Plus, inflation, staycati…
30 Jul 2020