Steven Pearlstein makes a good use of Shakespeare to figure out what is going on with the economy. From Macbeth and the Market:
Is this a dagger we see before us, hanging over the global financial system, or a dagger of the mind, a false creation proceeding from the heat-oppressed brains of frightened investors and depositors, greedy short-sellers, short-sighted auditors, and attention-seeking analysts and journalists?
Okay, so I’m no Shakespeare — I never could get iambic pentameter. What I do know, however, is that Macbeth’s famous question is relevant to the unfolding financial crisis. Are the markets reflecting the reality of economic fundamentals, or are we getting lots of false signals reflecting irrational herd behavior?
Whether the daggers we see before us are just daggers of the mind or portents of something real–or, in Macbeth’s case, both–is a question that applies beyond economics to a lot of the fears we have. This is a good example of how a literary image can help us think by giving us categories to think with.
UPDATE: In thinking about Shakespeare’s play, I realized that Mr. Pearlstein misses the point of the imagery. The dagger was not hanging over Macbeth, with him having to decide whether it was real or not before it fell on him. The dagger leads him into the chamber where he kills the king. Macbeth’s dagger is a symbol of TEMPTATION. The application to the economy would be that our fears and projections could lead us to terrible remedies, such as nationalizing industries, regulating the economy, abandoning the free market, etc.