The Elizabethan Stage as Tributary: Mercantilism, Nationalism, and Social Mobility in Three Popular Dramas
This thesis examines the relationship between social mobility, early mercantilism, and nationalism in three Elizabethan Popular Dramas: Thomas Dekker's The Shoemaker's Holiday, and Thomas Heywood's The Fair Maid of the West, Part I, and The Four Prentices of London. I attempt to answer why these plays respond favourably to social mobility despite the rigid hierarchical philosophies which condemn this practice. Popular Drama's representation of social mobility and audience wish-fulfillment is often thought of as celebratory of the middle-class; though this is partially true, I argue that these fatuous pieces of popular wish-fulfillment are also sophisticated structures designed to mould their audience's behaviour. Furthermore, the behaviour that these plays promote is intended to support the power and development of the nation-state, economically and socially. The ideologies which legitimize social mobility in these plays are always mercantilism and nationalism. The first chapter of my thesis establishes the historical and theoretical apparatuses that inform my remaining three chapters. My reading of these plays is informed by the economic history of Elizabethan England, and my research on the subject is drawn from a combination of contemporary and historic sources. I provide a wide range of economic sources because discussion of the Elizabethan economic history is lacking in literary criticism. The subsequent three chapters are designed as case studies which examine each individual play according to the theoretical and historical model outlined in the first chapter.
DegreeMaster of Arts (M.A.)
CommitteeNelson, Brent; Hynes, Peter; Wright, Sharon
Copyright DateSeptember 2011