Shakespeare Quarterly 52.1 (2001) 157-159
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Theatre, finance and society in early modern England
Theatre, finance and society in early modern England. By Theodore B. Leinwand. Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 31. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999. Pp. xii+199. $54.95 cloth.
Concise, well-focused, and interesting, Theodore Leinwand's Theatre, Finance and Society in Early Modern England cross-cuts between theatrical representations of debt and finance and historical records of those involved in credit-based financial dealings (just about everyone, he concludes) in an attempt to map the affective terrain of such transactions in Tudor-Stuart England. A number of recent and some not-so-recent books have placed Renaissance literature, and especially Renaissance drama, in relation to what their authors have seen as an emerging market society. Leinwand's excellent book both extends and modifies this work (he cites Jean-Christophe Agnew, L. C. Knights, Don [End Page 157] Wayne, Douglas Bruster, Paul Yachnin, and the present reviewer but notes rightly that many more examples could easily be provided ). Leinwand resists the teleological tendencies of these authors to read the present into the past, casts a critical eye on their schematic reliance on a marxian transformation from feudalism to capitalism or gift economy to market economy--while not denying the utility of such big ideas--and focuses more closely than they have on particular examples of market-related affect. Leinwand succeeds in providing a fine-grained, historically local reading of what it felt like to be economically embedded in the networks of credit and debt that were, he argues, well-nigh universal in late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth-century England, but particular and sometimes idiosyncratic in their consequences for individual persons or characters. His introductory account of affect draws lightly on Ludwig Wittgenstein and Sylvan Tomkins, but his book's real contribution comes from the remarkably full and fascinating account he gives of actual money-related emotions (as represented in the historical record) and of literary parallels to them, especially dramatic ones.
After a brief, thoughtful, interesting introduction, Leinwand proceeds to four chapters: "Credit Crunch," focusing on Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice and Timon of Athens, Heywood's 2 If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody, and the borrowing and lending of merchants, nobles, and monarchs; "Debt Restructuring," focusing on Jonson, Chapman, and Marston's Eastward Ho!, Middleton's Michaelmas Term, Cooke's Greene's Tu Quoque, and the careers of various men of the theater; "Mortgage Payments," focusing on the substantial evolution of mortgage laws in the period (which diminished the danger of forfeiture of mortgaged lands), on Massinger's A New Way To Pay Old Debts, and on the careers of outstanding financiers who were famous foreclosers; and "Venture Capital," focusing on privateering adventurers and merchants and the emergence of trading companies, returning to The Merchant of Venice, and treating Jonson's The Alchemist. A short afterword takes up Andrew Gurr's attempt in The Shakespearian Playing Companies to understand the feelings and motives of the King's Men as they chose to keep the Globe Theatre open after obtaining permission to play at the Blackfriars in 1608 and elected to rebuild the Globe after it burned in 1613; Leinwand's study of affects surrounding both theatrical and property dealings allows him to diversify Gurr's speculations considerably.
Leinwand points out in his introduction that a project aiming to recover affect can afford a fair amount of "theoretical indifference to genre and formal mediations" (6), and he ranges easily among various kinds of fictional and historical examples, comparing Elizabeth I as debtor/creditor on one hand with Portia in Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice; on the other hand with Henri III, Henri de Navarre, and Philip II; and on yet a third hand with Sir Thomas Gresham--both the historical Sir Thomas and the Gresham of Thomas Heywood's 2 If You Know Not Me, You Know Nobody. Sir Giles Overreach from Massinger's A New Way to Pay Old Debts comes in for similar comparison to...