home contact

Shakespeare on Poverty

My friends were poor, but honest.
All's Well that Ends Well (1.3.196)

Famine is in thy cheeks,
Need and oppression starveth in thine eyes,
Contempt and beggary hang upon thy back;
The world is not thy friend nor the world’s law:
The world affords no law to make thee rich;
Then be not poor, but break it, and take this.
Romeo and Juliet (5.1.76), Romeo to the Apothecary

He's poor, and that's revenge enough.
Timon of Athens (3.4.72)

As we do turn our backs
From our companion thrown into his grave,
So his familiars to his buried fortunes
Slink all away, leave their false vows with him,
Like empty purses pick'd; and his poor self,
A dedicated beggar to the air,
With his disease of all-shunn'd poverty,
Walks, like contempt, alone.
Timon of Athens (4.2.10)

Well, whiles I am a beggar, I will rail,
And say there is no sin but to be rich;
And being rich, my virtue then shall be
To say there is no vice but beggary.
King John (2.1.612)

Whiles, like a doe, I go to find my fawn
And give it food. There is an old poor man,
Who after me hath many a weary step
Limp’d in pure love: till he be first suffic’d,
Oppress’d with two weak evils, age and hunger.
As You Like It (2.7.138)

O! reason not the need; our basest beggars
Are in the poorest thing superfluous:
Allow not nature more than nature needs,
Man’s life is cheap as beast’s.
King Lear (2.4.276)

A most poor man, made tame to fortune’s blows;
Who, by the art of known and feeling sorrows,
Am pregnant to good pity.
King Lear (4.6.216)

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O! I have ta’en
Too little care of this. Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.
King Lear (3.4.33)

I can get no remedy against this consumption of the purse:
borrowing only lingers and lingers it out, but the disease is incurable.
2 Henry IV (1.2.74)

His coffers sound
With hollow poverty and emptiness.
2 Henry IV (1.3.76)

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept.
Julius Caesar (3.4.100)

Poor and content is rich and rich enough,
But riches fineless is as poor as winter
To him that ever fears he shall be poor.
Othello (3.3.197)

No, madam, 'tis not so well that I am poor, though
many of the rich are damned.
All's Well That Ends Well (1.3.14)


Related Articles

 Shakespeare Reveals Your Fortune
 Themes in Romeo and Juliet
 How to Pronounce the Names in Shakespeare's Plays
 Preface to The First Folio
 Classification of Shakespeare's Work

 Shakespeare Q & A
 Shakespeare's Pathos
 Shakespeare's Portrayal of Youth
 Shakespeare on Old Age

 Shakespeare's Heroines
 Shakespeare's Attention to Details
 Shakespeare's Portrayals of Sleep
 Why Shakespeare is so Important
 Shakespeare's Language
 Top 10 Shakespeare Plays

In the Spotlight

Quote in Context

If thou art rich, thou'rt poor;
For, like an ass whose back with ingots bows,
Thou bear's thy heavy riches but a journey,
And death unloads thee.
Measure for Measure (3.1), Duke Vincentio

Shakespeare "knew that place and power do not give happiness - that the crowned are subject as the lowest to fate and chance....So, too, he knew that gold could not bring joy - that death and misfortune come alike to rich and poor." [Robert Green Ingersoll, Shakespeare, A Lecture]