The beauty of Shakespeare’s works is that they can be interpreted in many ways. One of my favourites is to think of his biggest plays as representing the three stages of life- youth, adulthood, and old-age:
Hamlet/youth. The young prince Hamlet is plagued by uncertainty, existentialist doubt (‘to be or not to be’) and relativistic morality (‘there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so’). He rages over how to avenge his father’s death and the injustices of life. Eventually he does claim his father’s murderer’s life (his uncle Claudius) but loses his mother (Gertrude) and in the end his own life as well.
Macbeth/adulthood. The general Macbeth upon winning a battle gets his ambitions inflated upon hearing from three witches that he will be king. He then engages in a blood-soaked journey to achieve this. Yet, even on achieving high rank he is plagued by insecurity (‘dressed in borrowed robes’) and guilt. In the end, he realises that ‘tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow’ won’t bring relief, instead ‘life’s a walking shadow…signifying nothing’.
King Lear/old age. The elderly King Lear wants to maintain his title and status, but not the responsibility of running his kingdom so wishes to pass this to his daughters. He asks the three of them ‘which of you shall we say doth love us most?’ (Rather than ‘which of you doth love us most,’), so prefers sweet words and flattery than the truth. Indeed, Cordelia who doesn’t overstate her love gets castigated by him and loses her share of the kingdom. In the end, the other two daughters, Goneril and Regan, push their father to madness. Cordelia saves him but is executed and King Lear is left holding her in his arms.
The three plays show the dark side of each stage of our lives, the uncertainty and inability to act of youth, the unchecked ambition of adulthood, and the desire for status and flattery of old age. All the time we try to live up to some external notion of being, we end up losing out on that we love the most.
Bilal Hafeez is the CEO and Editor of Macro Hive. He spent over twenty years doing research at big banks – JPMorgan, Deutsche Bank, and Nomura, where he had various “Global Head” roles and did FX, rates and cross-markets research.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.
Any cookies that may not be particularly necessary for the website to function and is used specifically to collect user personal data via analytics, ads, other embedded contents are termed as non-necessary cookies. It is mandatory to procure user consent prior to running these cookies on your website.