Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be

Posted by Elyse Bruce on May 31, 2010

Surely with Biblical passages that reference lending and borrowing, the Bible must be the origin of this phrase.

Ex. 22:25  “If you lend money to my people, to the poor among you, you shall not deal with them as a creditor; you shall not exact interest from them.”

Deut. 23:19  “You shall not charge interest on loans to another Israelite, interest on money, interest on provisions, interest on anything that is lent.” 

Luke 6:34 “If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.” 

Oddly enough, however, the Bible is not the origin of this phrase.  It is actually an original phrase written by none other than William Shakespeare in his play Hamlet in Act 1, scene 3 and is spoken by Polonius.

Neither a borrower nor a lender be, for loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edges of husbandry.”

When Shakespeare’s play was staged around 1600, history shows that borrowing was epidemic among the gentry.  This epidemic resulted in more than a few cases of landowners selling off their estates piece by piece to maintain their ostentatious lifestyles in London.

Wisely enough, those with money to spare had that money because they knew better than to borrow money against their assets and they knew better t han to loan money to others.

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