Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England

Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England

Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England

Theatre, Finance, and Society in Early Modern England

Synopsis

This interesting study examines emotional responses to socio-economic pressures in early modern England, as they are revealed in plays, historical narratives and biographical accounts of the period. These texts yield fascinating insights into the various, often unpredictable, ways in which people coped with the exigencies of credit, debt, mortgaging and capital ventures. Plays discussed include Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Timon of Athens, Jonson's The Alchemist and Massinger's A New Way to Pay Old Debts. They are paired with writings by and about the finances of the corrupt Earl of Suffolk, the privateer Walter Raleigh, the royal agent Thomas Gresham, theatre entrepreneur James Burbage, and the Lord Treasurer Lionel Cranfield. Leinwand's new readings of these texts reveal a blend of affect and cognition concerning finance that includes nostalgia, anger, contempt, embarrassment, tenacity, bravado and humility.

Excerpt

Theatre, finance and society is an interpretive inventory of responses to socio-economically induced stress. Not so much what early modern English people thought of their circumstances, nor solely what those exigencies felt like, my subject is the amalgam of cognition and affect that enables coping mechanisms and coping strategies–from routines that were mostly passive to those in which men and women seized the initiative. Then as now people made something of their debts, their risks, and their losses. Then as now people responded to and acted upon their economic encumbrances and opportunities in various and often unpre; dictable ways

There is no way exhaustively to canvass an entire historical moment’s repertoire of socio-economically aroused affect. One may, however, look at particular dramatic texts, at biographical records, and at historical episodes for evidence of varieties of emotional engagement. While drama and historical narratives lend themselves to the recovery of affect, unlike an essay, a treatise, or a pamphlet, they do not and they need not self; consciously set out to know what they feel or think, although the feelings represented in them are bound up subtly with the knowledge they depend upon. Early modern English drama, biography, and history everywhere enact the likes of embarrassment and contempt and rage, but they have not often been mined for their affects. They have not often been read as indices of the emotional life of the past, despite the fact that in different forms, terms, and circumstances, that part of experience must have been as meaningful then as now.

What has been written about, and for some time now, is the way the early modern English period complexly elaborates an historical tran; sition, at once epistemological, ideological, and material, from what has been variously rendered as status to contract, from sacred to secular, ascription to achievement, finite to open, fixed to contingent, use to exchange, bounty to profit, feudal to (nascent) capitalist. Such forward; looking if retrospectively construed trajectories have much to commend them, and I evoke them not as straw men, but in earnest. These longue . . .

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