By Mike Markowitz for CoinWeek …..
Shakespeare’s works are wealthy in allusions to cash. Such references have been meant to deliver his audiences into nearer identification with the play by mentioning a well-known facet of life … The Elizabethan was conversant in many overseas cash not solely due to commerce with the Continent, however as a result of for hundreds of years good gold and silver had no nationality or politics. A treasured steel coin was by no means turned down as a result of it was not English (Engstrom, 4).
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was born within the 31st yr of the reign of Elizabeth I (dominated 1533–1603) and died within the 13th yr of the reign of James I (dominated 1603-25). England’s circulating coinage throughout his lifetime included 11 completely different denominations in silver and 9 in gold (there was no copper), together with many French, Italian, Spanish, and Dutch varieties talked about within the performs.
Right here is the desire and beneath Caesar’s seal
To each Roman citizen he provides
To each a number of man, seventy-five drachmas.
—Julius Caesar, Act III, Scene 2
The drachma, a silver coin of about 4.Three grams, was Greek not Roman. The Roman silver denarius at the moment was a silver coin of about 4 grams (though many have been underweight). Some critics take into account this a historic error, however Shakespeare’s supply for this, the historian Appian of Alexandria (c. 95–165 CE), is particular about Caesar’s bequest: “[T]o each Roman nonetheless residing within the metropolis he gave seventy 5 Attic drachmas.” This sum could be a number of month’s wages for a laborer.
Below Roman rule, Athens nonetheless issued its personal silver cash, though the high-value tetradrachm (four-drachma piece) was extra widespread than the drachma. Caesar’s portrait denarius, issued shortly earlier than his assassination, offended conservative Romans, who felt cash shouldn’t glorify residing males.
My daughter! Oh, my ducats! Oh, my daughter!
Fled with a Christian! Oh, my Christian ducats!
Justice! The Legislation! My ducats and my daughter!
—The Service provider of Venice, Act II, scene 7
Venice dominated Mediterranean commerce within the center ages, and nicely into the Renaissance. Launched in 1284, and minted till the top of the Republic in 1796, the Venetian ducat was a gold coin of three.53 grams, 23-3/Four carats tremendous (.9896). In Shakespeare’s play, Jewish moneylender Shylock laments his daughter’s theft of his sealed luggage of ducats. On these “Christian ducats”, the obverse exhibits St. Mark handing a banner to the kneeling ruler of Venice, the Doge. The reverse exhibits a standing determine of Christ surrounded by stars. Central to the play’s plot is Shylock’s mortgage of three thousand ducats to the service provider Antonio, assured by a pound of Antonio’s flesh.
Consider me, I had somewhat have misplaced my purse
Filled with crusados.
—Othello, Act III, scene 4
In 1373, the kings of England and Portugal signed a treaty of “perpetual friendship”. Commerce between the kingdoms flourished, because of an English fondness for port wine. The cruzado (or crusado) a Portuguese gold coin of about 3.Eight grams, was first issued by King Afonso IV (dominated 1438-81) who hoped to finance a campaign in opposition to the Turks. Othello, a Moor native to North Africa, would have been conversant in the wealthy sources of West African gold exploited by Portuguese mariners.
Eu, Quart d’european
Certainly, the French might lay twenty French crowns to 1 they may beat us … However it’s no English treason to chop French crowns, and tomorrow the king himself might be a clipper.
—Henry V, Act IV, scene 1
“French crown” was the English identify for a gold coin, the european à la couronne (“protect with a crown”) issued from 1385 to 1640. The load and worth different over time. The obverse bore France’s royal coat of arms, a protect with three lilies (fleurs-de-lis) topped by a crown. The reverse bore an elaborate “floreate” cross, surrounded by a Latin inscription: “Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ guidelines.”
Clipping the sides of gold cash with a purpose to promote the clippings was an unlawful, however widespread, medieval follow. Clipping cash bearing the king’s picture was punishable as treason.
There’s a quart d’european for you, let the justices make you and Fortune buddies.
—All’s Nicely That Ends Nicely, Act V, scene 2
The quart d’european, referred to as “cardecue” by the English, was a French silver coin valued at 1 / 4 of an european. The romantic comedy All’s Nicely That Ends Nicely (1603) is ready in France, so the reference to modern French coinage is suitable.
The Penny and the Half Penny
An I had however one penny on this planet, thou shouldst have it to purchase gingerbread.
—Love’s Labours Misplaced, Act V, scene 1
Right here is for thy pains.
No actually sir, not a penny.
—Romeo and Juliet, Act II, scene 4
Throughout Shakespeare’s lifetime, the idea of the British financial system was the silver penny (plural “pence”), usually the worth of a loaf of bread. In Shakespeare’s Globe theater, a penny paid admission for “groundlings” who stood within the courtyard across the stage. Twelve pence made a shilling, and 20 shillings made a pound (the pound was an accounting unit somewhat than a coin, till the primary gold pound or “sovereign” was issued in 1578).
Initially, the load of the penny was outlined as one “pennyweight”, equal to 1/20 of a troy ounce or 1.55 grams. Below Henry IV (1399–1413), the penny fell to 15 grains (0.97 g) of silver. And through the reign of Henry VI in 1464, it dropped to 12 grains (0.78 g).
By the reign of Elizabeth I, the penny was a wretched little piece struck in debased alloy (lower than half silver), weighing 0.6 grams or much less.
Beggar that I’m, I’m even poor in thanks, however I thanks. And certain, expensive buddies, my thanks are too expensive a halfpenny.
—Hamlet, Act II scene 2
The tiny silver halfpenny, weighing only a quarter of a gram, was usually the worth of a tankard of ale in a pub (between a pint and a quart). Below James I, the half penny bore a rose (image of England) obverse and a thistle (image of Scotland) reverse.
Come on, there may be sixpence for you – let’s have a tune.
—Twelfth Evening, Act II, scene 3
The good-looking “mill sixpence” of Elizabeth I, issued between 1561 and 1572 was the primary English coinage made with a screw press somewhat than hand-hammered. French mint-master Eloye Mestrelle imported the equipment from Paris and arrange a mint workshop within the Tower of London. The standard of the cash was glorious, however manufacturing was gradual in comparison with hand hammering. Resistance from mint employees, fearing the lack of their jobs, ultimately led to Mestrelle’s downfall and execution in 1578 for counterfeiting. It might be one other century earlier than coining equipment was adopted in Britain.
Pistol, did you choose Grasp Slender’s purse?
— Aye by these gloves did he … of seven groats in mill-sixpences and two Edward shovelboards that value me two shilling and two pence apiece…
—The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I, scene 1
That is one in all Shakespeare’s extra obscure coin references. The groat was a silver coin valued at fourpence. The “Edward shovelboard” was a shilling of the boy king Edward VI (dominated 1547-53). Struck in low aid, by Shakespeare’s time these cash had worn easy and flat, making them excellent for the tavern sport of shovelboard, which concerned sliding cash throughout a desk. These outdated cash have been extremely prized by gamers and offered for a premium.
A noble shalt thou have, and current pay,
And liquor likewise will I give to thee,
And friendship shall mix, and brotherhood.
—Henry V, Act II, scene 1
The “noble“ was a big, skinny gold coin valued at six shillings and eight pence (80 pence, or one-third of a pound) first issued by Edward III in 1377, and final issued beneath Edward IV in 1464. By Shakespeare’s time, the gold “angel” changed it. The load progressively fell from about 9 grams to lower than seven.
The obverse bore a determine of the king standing in a ship, holding a protect emblazoned with the royal arms. The reverse bore an elaborate cross. Many references in Shakespeare to this coin play on each meanings of the phrase: the identify of a gold piece and the standard of an individual.
…They’ve in England
A coin that bears the determine of an angel
Stamped in gold.
—The Service provider of Venice, Act II, scene 7
First issued beneath Edward IV, the angel was a gold coin initially valued at six shillings and eight pence, at a weight of 5.2 grams. The worth and weight different over time, and there was additionally a half angel or “angelet”. The coin was final struck in 1642 beneath Charles I. The obverse bore a standing winged determine of the Archangel Michael slaying a dragon. The reverse exhibits a ship carrying the royal arms, surrounded by a spiritual inscription. References in Shakespeare usually play on the double that means of the phrase: a gold coin and a divine messenger.
Crowns in my purse I’ve, and items at residence
And so am come overseas to see the world.
—The Taming of the Shrew, Act I, scene 2
The crown was initially a gold coin issued beneath Henry VIII in 1526 valued at 5 shillings. Though small portions continued to be issued in gold till the reign of Charles I (1625–49), it was finest generally known as a heavy silver coin first struck beneath Edward VI in 1551.
“Harry Ten Shillings”
Good Grasp Company Bardolph, stand my good friend and right here’s 4 Harry ten shillings in French crowns for you.
—Henry IV, Half 2, Act III, scene 2
Henry IV reigned from 1399 to 1413. There have been no 10 shilling cash throughout this time, so Shakespeare right here makes a up to date reference acquainted to his viewers. The “Harry ten shillings” was a 23 kt gold coin (falling to 20 kt subsequently) of Henry VIII first issued in 1544. Because the French crown circulated at a worth of 4 shillings, the sum described right here would have been 10 crowns. Elizabethans usually wanted to make such alternate charge conversions.
The usual reference on cash in Shakespeare (Engstrom, 1964) cites 22 differing types particularly talked about within the performs. Many of those are scarce, high-value gold and silver varieties, so assembling an entire set could be a problem for a rich and affected person collector. Probably the most important current sale of Shakespearean cash was a Summer time 2006 fastened value record from Stack’s in New York Metropolis. Hammered English cash are extremely popular with fashionable collectors, and these things often seem in main British and US auctions.
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 Appian, The Civil Wars, II:143 (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Appian/Civil_Wars/2*.html)
 CNG Triton VI, 14 January 2003, Lot 264. Realized $725 USD (estimate $500).
 Roma Numismatics Public sale XVIII, 29 September 2019, Lot 970. Realized UK£4,000 (about $4,933 USD; estimate £5,000).
 As bullion, three thousand ducats could be 340 troy ounces of gold, value about $510,000 USD at present charges.
 CNG Triton IX, 10 January 2006, Lot 1885. Realized $750 USD (estimate $750).
 CNG Digital Public sale 461, 12 February 2020, Lot 563. Realized $170 USD (estimate $100).
 Spink Public sale 18004, 27 March 2018, Lot 378. Realized UK£170 (about $240; estimate £150-200).
 Noble Numismatics Public sale 122, 19 November 2019, Lot 2932. Realized AU$100 (about $68 USD).
 Stack’s, 31 March 2008, Lot 3065. Realized $500 USD (estimate $400-600).
 CNG Digital Public sale 461, 12 February 2020, Lot 588. Realized $140 USD (estimate $200).
 Stack’s ANA Public sale, 14 August 2019, Lot 21030. Realized $4,900 USD (estimate $4,000 – 6,000).
 CNG Triton XXI, 9 January 2018, Lot 1432. Realized $10,000 USD (estimate $7,500).
 The New York Sale, 9 January 2019, Lot 1050. Realized $8,000 USD (estimate $8,000).
Brooke, G.C. English Cash. London (1950)
Dobson, Michael and Stanley Wells. Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford (2001)
Dunton-Downer, Leslie and Alan Using. Important Shakespeare Handbook. New York (2004)
Engstrom, J. Eric. Cash in Shakespeare: A Numismatic Information. Hanover, NH (1964)
Ives, Herbert and Philip Grierson. The Venetian Gold Ducat and Its Imitations. New York (1954)
Johanyak, D. L. Shakespeare’s World. Saddle River, NJ (2004)
Ojima, Fumita. “Cash in Shakespeare”, Keiei Ronshu (Journal of Enterprise Administration) (2004)
Shakespeare, William. The Full Works. New York (1997)
Stahl, Alan M. “Numismatics within the Renaissance”, Princeton College Library Chronicle 69 (Winter, 2008)
Stack’s. Fastened Value Record. Cash of Nice Britain That includes Cash in Shakespeare. New York (Summer time, 2006)
Spink. Cash of England and the UK, 46th version. London (2011)