Sederi Yearbook 24

Sederi 24
Sederi 24 — 2014
Berta Cano Echevarría & Ana Sáez-Hidalgo
Francisco J. Borge López
ISSN 1135-7789


Richard Halpern, “Bassanio’s bailout: A brief history of risk, Shakespeare to Wall Street.” SEDERI 24 (2014): 27-45.


DOI:                                                     Download PDF



Shakespeare’s most searching anatomy of risk, The Merchant of Venice depicts the wagering not only of money but of love and life itself. This paper places Merchant in a long history that traces the concept of risk from classical theatre to medieval scholasticism to modern sociology. Over the course of this history, the moral and economic dimensions of risk become increasingly fugitive and unmappable. Shakespeare’s play illustrates this process in miniature, and in so doing casts light on our contemporary “risk society,” including the financial meltdown of 2008.

Keywords: William Shakespeare; risk; finance; Alexandre Kojève; G.F.W. Hegel; Ulrich Beck.




Beck, Ulrich 1992. Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity. Trans. Mark Ritter. London: SAGE Publications.

Collas-Heddeland, Emmanuelle, Odile Kammerer, and Alain J. Le Maître 2004. “Moyen Age et Temps Moderne: L’ère du calcul.” Pour une Histoire Culturelle du Risque. Strasbourg: Université de Haute-Alsace.

Daniel, Drew 2013. “Let Me Have Judgment, and the Jew His Will.” The Melancholy Assemblage: Affect and Epistemology in the English Renaissance. New York: Fordham University Press: 92-119.

Ferber, Michael 1990. “The Ideology of The Merchant of Venice.” English Literary Renaissance 20/3: 431-464.

Kojève, Alexandre 1980. Introduction to the Reading of Hegel: Lectures on the Phenomenology of Spirit. Ed. Alan Bloom. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Piron, Sylvain 2004. “L’apparition du resicum en Méditerranée occidentale au XIIème-XIIIème siècles.” Eds. Emmanuelle Collas-Hedeland et al. Pour une Histoire Culturelle du Risque: Genèse, Évolution, Actualité du Concept dans le Sociétés Occidentales. Strasbourg: Université de Haute-Alsace.

Shakespeare, William 2004. The Complete Works of Shakespeare. Ed. David Bevington. New York: Pearson Longman.

Wood, Peter 2011. “The Merchant of Zuccotti Park.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. <url:>. Last accessed 28/01/2014.