Philip Massinger's The Emperor of the East
This chapter argues that the physical presence of stage props in Renaissance playhouses encouraged a different way of thinking about economic circulation than did mercantile treatises. Specifically, the chapter reads attempts to frame royal finance in mercantile treatises against the staging of court economics in Philip Massinger's The Emperor of the East. Massinger's play works through questions about royal finance similar to those of treatises by Thomas Milles, Gerard Malynes, Thomas Mun, and Edward Misselden. Rather than championing one particular model of royal finance, however, The Emperor of the East continually draws attention to activities that are not accounted for in a succession of models. In the first three acts, characters voice competing descriptions of the transactions that take place in the court. The limits of each of these models are revealed in the last two acts with the introduction of an apple that circulates among the play's main characters, with each one understanding it according to a different frame. The tension between the materiality of the prop apple in the playhouse and the narratives by which it is described onstage suggests the reciprocal relationship between discourse and systems of exchange -- between ‘economics’ and ‘economies.’
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