In the fall of 2011, activists claiming to represent the 99% occupied Zuccotti Park in New York City’s financial district. The Occupy movement raised questions about the distribution of wealth in the United States and the world, the influence of money in politics, and the nature of public space in a capitalist society.
Concerns about capitalist culture expressed in the drama of Shakespeare and his contemporaries often resonate with those expressed by 21st century activists. Early modern playwrights address issues including poverty, property, debt, social mobility, globalization, and politics, as well as intersections of economics with racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities. Often, early modern playwrights invoke the commercial role of the theatre to comment reflexively on the relationship between art and economics, on the sense that a commercial ethos is beginning to pervade all aspects of life, and on the ways that people are interpolated into economic systems.
This panel seeks to further a critical conversation about the early modern theatre’s role in negotiating early capitalism and its social effects. It is particularly interested in the ways that playwrights explore the relationship between human and economic value as well as intersections of economics with social categories such as race, class, gender, and sexuality.