In the early modern period, England radically expanded its
participation in an economy that itself was becoming increasingly
global. Yet less than twenty years after the highly profitable
English East India Company made its first voyage, England was
suffering from an economic depression, blamed largely on the
shortage of coin necessary to exploit those very same profitable
routes. How could there be profit in the face of so much loss, and
loss in the face of so much profit?
In Tragicomic Redemptions, Valerie Forman contends that
three seemingly unrelated domains-the development of new economic
theories and practices, especially those related to global trade;
the discourses of Christian redemption; and the rise of tragicomedy
as the stage's most popular genre-were together crucial to the
formulation of a new and paradoxical way of thinking about loss and
profit in relationship to one another.
Forman reads plays-including Shakespeare's Twelfth Night,
The Merchant of Venice, Pericles, and The
Winter's Tale, Fletcher's The Island Princess,
Massinger's The Renegado, and Webster's The Devil's
Law-Case-alongside a range of historical materials that
provide a fuller picture of England's participation in a global
economy: the writings of the country's earliest economic theorists,
narrative accounts of merchants and captives in the Spice Islands
and the Ottoman Empire, and documents that detail the development
of the English East India Company, the Levant Company, and even the
very idea of the joint-stock company. Unique in its dual focus on
literary form and economic practices, Tragicomic
Redemptions both shows how concepts fundamental to
capitalism's existence, such as "free trade," and "investment,"
develop within a global context and reveals the exceptional place
of dramatic form as a participant in the newly emerging, public
discourse of economic theory.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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